Brain circuits that link schizophrenia to high risk of cigarette smoking

Schizophr Bull. 2013 Nov;39(6):1373-81. doi: 10.1093/schbul/sbs149. Epub 2012 Dec 12.


Schizophrenia is associated with a high prevalence of smoking. Functional connectivity between the dorsal anterior cingulate (dACC) and limbic regions including the ventral striatum, extended amygdala and parahippocampal areas has been previously implicated in the genetics and clinical severity of smoking. In this study, we test the hypothesis that dACC functional circuits are key paths for the high risk of smoking comorbidity in schizophrenia. Resting state functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) was performed using the dACC as a seed region in smoking and nonsmoking patients with schizophrenia (n = 54), matched controls (n = 65), and nonpsychotic first-degree relatives (n = 24). Multiple regions had decreased connectivity with the dACC in schizophrenia patients when compared with matched controls (n = 65). Several of these functional circuits were also associated with nicotine addiction severity; the largest cluster included limbic areas such as the parahippocampal, extended amygdala, ventral striatal, and posterior insula regions, indicating an overlap of schizophrenia and nicotine addiction on to this circuit. These same functional connectivity-defined circuits were also significantly impaired in schizophrenia nonsmokers compared with control nonsmokers and in nonpsychotic first-degree relatives. Functional connectivity between the dACC and limbic regions is inherently abnormal in schizophrenia, related to its genetic liability regardless of smoking, and overlaps with a nicotine addiction-related circuit. Our findings establish a biologically defined brain circuit mechanism that contributes to the high prevalence of smoking.

Keywords: anterior cingulate; functional connectivity; limbic; nicotine.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Intramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Comorbidity
  • Family
  • Functional Neuroimaging / instrumentation
  • Functional Neuroimaging / methods*
  • Gyrus Cinguli / physiopathology
  • Humans
  • Limbic System / physiopathology
  • Middle Aged
  • Neural Pathways / physiopathology
  • Psychiatric Status Rating Scales
  • Risk
  • Schizophrenia / epidemiology
  • Schizophrenia / physiopathology*
  • Severity of Illness Index
  • Smoking / epidemiology
  • Smoking / physiopathology*
  • Tobacco Use Disorder / epidemiology
  • Tobacco Use Disorder / physiopathology*
  • Young Adult