Effects of reward and punishment on brain activations associated with inhibitory control in cigarette smokers

Authors

  • Maartje Luijten,

    Corresponding author
    1. School of Psychological Sciences, University of Melbourne, Melbourne, Vic., Australia
    2. Institute of Psychology, Erasmus University Rotterdam, Rotterdam, the Netherlands
    • Correspondence to: Maartje Luijten, Institute of Psychology, Erasmus University Rotterdam, PO Box 1738, 3000 DR Rotterdam, the Netherlands. E-mail: luijten@fsw.eur.nl

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  • David A. O'Connor,

    1. School of Psychological Sciences, University of Melbourne, Melbourne, Vic., Australia
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  • Sarah Rossiter,

    1. School of Psychological Sciences, University of Melbourne, Melbourne, Vic., Australia
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  • Ingmar H. A. Franken,

    1. Institute of Psychology, Erasmus University Rotterdam, Rotterdam, the Netherlands
    2. Department of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, Erasmus University Medical Center, Rotterdam, the Netherlands
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  • Robert Hester

    1. School of Psychological Sciences, University of Melbourne, Melbourne, Vic., Australia
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Abstract

Background and aims

Susceptibility to use of addictive substances may result, in part, from a greater preference for an immediate small reward relative to a larger delayed reward or relative insensitivity to punishment. This functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) study examined the neural basis of inhibiting an immediately rewarding stimulus to obtain a larger delayed reward in smokers. We also investigated whether punishment could modulate inhibitory control.

Design

The Monetary Incentive Go/NoGo (MI-Go/NoGo) task was administered that provided three types of reward outcomes contingent upon inhibitory control performance over rewarding stimuli: inhibition failure was either followed by no monetary reward (neutral condition), a small monetary reward with immediate feedback (reward condition) or immediate monetary punishment (punishment condition). In the reward and punishment conditions, successful inhibitory control resulted in larger delayed rewards.

Setting

Community sample of smokers in the Melbourne (Australia) area.

Participants

Nineteen smokers were compared with 17 demographically matched non-smoking controls.

Measurements

Accuracy, reaction times and brain activation associated with the MI-Go/NoGo task.

Findings

Smokers showed hyperactivation in the right insula (P < 0.01), inferior and middle frontal gyrus (P < 0.01), dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (P = 0.001) and inferior parietal lobe (P < 0.01) both during inhibition of an immediately rewarding stimulus to obtain a larger delayed reward, and during inhibition of neutral stimuli. Group differences in brain activity were not significant in the punishment condition in the right insula and dorsolateral prefrontal cortex, most probably as a result of increased activation in non-smoking controls.

Conclusions

Compared with non-smokers, smokers showed increased neural activation when resisting immediately rewarding stimuli and may be less sensitive to punishment as a strategy to increase control over rewarding stimuli.

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