An increase in tobacco craving is associated with enhanced medial prefrontal cortex network coupling

PLoS One. 2014 Feb 5;9(2):e88228. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0088228. eCollection 2014.


Craving is a key aspect of drug dependence that is thought to motivate continued drug use. Numerous brain regions have been associated with craving, suggesting that craving is mediated by a distributed brain network. Whether an increase in subjective craving is associated with enhanced interactions among brain regions was evaluated using resting state functional magnetic imaging (fMRI) in nicotine dependent participants. We focused on craving-related changes in the orbital and medial prefrontal cortex (OMPFC) network, which also included the subgenual anterior cingulate cortex (sgACC) extending into the ventral striatum. Brain regions in the OMPFC network are not only implicated in addiction and reward, but, due to their rich anatomic interconnections, may serve as the site of integration across craving-related brain regions. Subjective craving and resting state fMRI were evaluated twice with an ∼1 hour delay between the scans. Cigarette craving was significantly increased at the end, relative to the beginning of the scan session. Enhanced craving was associated with heightened coupling between the OMPFC network and other cortical, limbic, striatal, and visceromotor brain regions that are both anatomically interconnected with the OMPFC, and have been implicated in addiction and craving. This is the first demonstration confirming that an increase in craving is associated with enhanced brain region interactions, which may play a role in the experience of craving.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Brain Mapping
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Male
  • Nicotiana / adverse effects
  • Prefrontal Cortex / physiopathology*
  • Tobacco Use Disorder / physiopathology*
  • Young Adult