, Volume 194, Issue 4, pp 433–441

DRD4 VNTR polymorphism is associated with transient fMRI-BOLD responses to smoking cues

  • F. Joseph McClernon
  • Kent E. Hutchison
  • Jed E. Rose
  • Rachel V. Kozink
Original Investigation

DOI: 10.1007/s00213-007-0860-6

Cite this article as:
McClernon, F.J., Hutchison, K.E., Rose, J.E. et al. Psychopharmacology (2007) 194: 433. doi:10.1007/s00213-007-0860-6



A dopamine receptor 4 variable number tandem repeat (DRD4 VNTR) polymorphism has been related to reactivity to smoking cues among smokers, but the effect of this genetic variation on brain responses to smoking cues has not been evaluated.


The present study evaluated the relationship between carrying the DRD4 VNTR 7-repeat allele and transient functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) blood-oxygen-level-dependent responses to smoking cues among adult dependent cigarette smokers.

Materials and methods

Smokers (n = 15) underwent fMRI scanning after 2-h abstinence. During scanning, they viewed visual smoking and control cues. A blood sample was assayed for the DRD4 VNTR polymorphism, and participants were categorized based on whether they carried one or two copies of the 7-repeat allele (DRD4 L, n = 7) or not (DRD4 S, n = 8).


Contrasts in brain cue-reactivity (smoking minus control cues) between DRD4 groups were conducted using SPM2. Smoking cues as compared to control cues elicited transient brain responses in right superior frontal gyrus (BA 8/9/10/32), left anterior cingulate gyrus (BA 32), and right cuneus (BA 19). Exposure to smoking cues resulted in greater activation of right superior frontal gyrus (BA 10) and right insula in DRD4 L compared to DRD4 S individuals. By contrast, exposure to smoking cues among DRD4 S individuals resulted in no significant increases in activation compared to DRD4 L individuals.


These brain imaging results suggest that DRD4 VNTR polymorphism is related to transient brain responses to smoking cues in regions subserving executive and somatosensory processes.


Cigarette smokingDRD4fMRICue-reactivityNicotineDopamine

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2007

Authors and Affiliations

  • F. Joseph McClernon
    • 1
  • Kent E. Hutchison
    • 2
  • Jed E. Rose
    • 1
  • Rachel V. Kozink
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral SciencesDuke University Medical CenterDurhamUSA
  2. 2.Department of PsychologyUniversity of Colorado at BoulderBoulderUSA