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Keywords:

  • addiction;
  • amygdala;
  • dependence;
  • faces;
  • fear;
  • fMRI;
  • nicotine;
  • smoking

Abstract

Cigarette smoking, a major, yet avoidable, cause of disability and premature death, is the most prevalent form of nicotine addiction. An emerging theme in the neurobiology of nicotine addiction is the integrity of the amygdala. Using functional MRI, amygdala responses during a face perception task were compared between 28 chronic smokers [14 females, 14 males; age, 26.3 (2.8) years; age at onset of smoking, 15.8 (2.6) years; years smoked, 9.1 (2.1); cigarettes per day, 17.1 (3.7); Fagerström test for nicotine dependence score, 4.1 (1.9); exhaled carbon-monoxide level, 17.8 (9.5) ppm] and 28 age- and education-matched nonsmokers [14 females, 14 males; age, 26.9 (2.4) years]. Subjects underwent imaging on two separate occasions 1 week apart: smoking satiety versus overnight smoking deprivation, in a randomized counterbalanced order. Our results show no difference in amygdala responses to faces between nonsmokers and satiated smokers. However, overnight deprivation from smoking was associated with a significantly lowered amygdala response to fear, an effect that was probabilistically mapped to the basolateral amygdala. We suggest that aberrant amygdala reactivity in overnight-deprived smokers may reflect a pre-existing vulnerability to smoking and/or increase the risk of smoking relapse after a cessation attempt. Hum Brain Mapp, 2011. © 2011 Wiley-Liss, Inc.