Striatal morphology is associated with tobacco cigarette craving

Neuropsychopharmacology. 2015 Jan;40(2):406-11. doi: 10.1038/npp.2014.185. Epub 2014 Jul 24.


The striatum has a clear role in addictive disorders and is involved in drug-related craving. Recently, enhanced striatal volume was associated with greater lifetime nicotine exposure, suggesting a bridge between striatal function and structural phenotypes. To assess this link between striatal structure and function, we evaluated the relationship between striatal morphology and this brain region's well-established role in craving. In tobacco smokers, we assessed striatal volume, surface area, and shape using a new segmentation methodology coupled with local shape indices. Striatal morphology was then related with two measures of craving: state-based craving, assessed by the brief questionnaire of smoking urges (QSU), and craving induced by smoking-related images. A positive association was found between left striatal volume and surface area with both measures of craving. A more specific relationship was found between both craving measures and the dorsal, but not in ventral striatum. Evaluating dorsal striatal subregions showed a single relationship between the caudate and QSU. Although cue-induced craving and the QSU were both associated with enlarged striatal volume and surface area, these measures were differentially associated with global or more local striatal volumes. We also report a connection between greater right striatal shape deformations and cue-induced craving. Shape deformations associated with cue-induced craving were specific to striatal subregions involved in habitual responding to rewarding stimuli, which is relevant given the habitual nature of cue-induced craving. The current findings confirm a relationship between striatal function and morphology and suggest that variation in striatal morphology may be a biomarker for craving severity.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Corpus Striatum / pathology*
  • Craving*
  • Cues
  • Female
  • Functional Laterality
  • Humans
  • Image Processing, Computer-Assisted
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Male
  • Organ Size
  • Severity of Illness Index
  • Smoking / pathology*
  • Tobacco Use Disorder / pathology*