Original Investigation

Psychopharmacology

, Volume 222, Issue 4, pp 701-708

First online:

μ-Opioid receptor availability in the amygdala is associated with smoking for negative affect relief

  • Mary FalconeAffiliated withDepartment of Pharmacology, University of PennsylvaniaCenter for Interdisciplinary Research on Nicotine Addiction, Department of Psychiatry, University of Pennsylvania
  • , Allison B. GoldAffiliated withCenter for Interdisciplinary Research on Nicotine Addiction, Department of Psychiatry, University of Pennsylvania
  • , E. Paul WileytoAffiliated withCenter for Interdisciplinary Research on Nicotine Addiction, Department of Psychiatry, University of Pennsylvania
  • , Riju RayAffiliated withCenter for Interdisciplinary Research on Nicotine Addiction, Department of Psychiatry, University of Pennsylvania
  • , Kosha RuparelAffiliated withBrain Behavior Laboratory, Neuropsychiatry Department, Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania
  • , Andrew NewbergAffiliated withMyrna Brind Center of Integrative Medicine, Department of Emergency Medicine and Radiology, Thomas Jefferson University
  • , Jacob DubroffAffiliated withDepartment of Nuclear Medicine, Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania
  • , Jean LoganAffiliated withMedical Department, Brookhaven National Laboratory
  • , Jon-Kar ZubietaAffiliated withMolecular and Behavioral Neuroscience Institute, University of Michigan
    • , Julie A. BlendyAffiliated withDepartment of Pharmacology, University of Pennsylvania
    • , Caryn LermanAffiliated withCenter for Interdisciplinary Research on Nicotine Addiction, Department of Psychiatry, University of Pennsylvania Email author 

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Abstract

Rationale

The perception that smoking relieves negative affect contributes to smoking persistence. Endogenous opioid neurotransmission, and the μ-opioid receptor (MOR) in particular, plays a role in affective regulation and is modulated by nicotine.

Objectives

We examined the relationship of MOR binding availability in the amygdala to the motivation to smoke for negative affect relief and to the acute effects of smoking on affective responses.

Methods

Twenty-two smokers were scanned on two separate occasions after overnight abstinence using [11C]carfentanil positron emission tomography imaging: after smoking a nicotine-containing cigarette and after smoking a denicotinized cigarette. Self-reports of smoking motives were collected at baseline, and measures of positive and negative affect were collected pre- and post- cigarette smoking.

Results

Higher MOR availability in the amygdala was associated with motivation to smoke to relieve negative affect. However, MOR availability was unrelated to changes in affect after smoking either cigarette.

Conclusions

Increased MOR availability in amygdala may underlie the motivation to smoke for negative affective relief. These results are consistent with previous data highlighting the role of MOR neurotransmission in smoking behavior.

Keywords

Smoking motivation μ-Opioid receptor Amygdala Affect regulation