Reduced executive and default network functional connectivity in cigarette smokers

Hum Brain Mapp. 2015 Mar;36(3):872-82. doi: 10.1002/hbm.22672. Epub 2014 Oct 24.


Altered functional connectivity has been associated with acute and chronic nicotine use. Connectivity alterations, specifically in the right and left executive control networks (RECN/LECN) and the default mode network (DMN), may contribute to the addiction cycle. The objective of this study was to determine if executive control network (ECN) and DMN connectivity is different between non-smokers and smokers and whether reductions in connectivity are related to chronic cigarette use. The RECN, LECN, and DMN were identified in resting state functional magnetic resonance imaging data in 650 subjects. Analyses tested for group differences in network connectivity strength, controlling for age and alcohol use. There was a significant group effect on LECN and DMN connectivity strength with smokers (n = 452) having lower network strengths than non-smokers (n = 198). Smokers had lower connectivity than non-smokers associated with key network hubs: the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex, and parietal nodes within ECNs. Further, ECN connectivity strength was negatively associated with pack years of cigarette use. Our data suggest that chronic nicotine use negatively impacts functional connectivity within control networks that may contribute to the difficulty smokers have in quitting.

Keywords: cigarette; default mode network; executive control network; functional connectivity; nicotine; resting state; smoking.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Brain Mapping / methods*
  • Executive Function / physiology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Male
  • Nerve Net / physiopathology*
  • Parietal Lobe / physiopathology*
  • Prefrontal Cortex / physiopathology*
  • Smoking / adverse effects
  • Smoking / physiopathology*