Sensory modality of smoking cues modulates neural cue reactivity
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Behavioral experiments have demonstrated that the sensory modality of presentation modulates drug cue reactivity.
The present study on nicotine addiction tested whether neural responses to smoking cues are modulated by the sensory modality of stimulus presentation.
We measured brain activation using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) in 15 smokers and 15 nonsmokers while they viewed images of smoking paraphernalia and control objects and while they touched the same objects without seeing them.
Haptically presented, smoking-related stimuli induced more pronounced neural cue reactivity than visual cues in the left dorsal striatum in smokers compared to nonsmokers. The severity of nicotine dependence correlated positively with the preference for haptically explored smoking cues in the left inferior parietal lobule/somatosensory cortex, right fusiform gyrus/inferior temporal cortex/cerebellum, hippocampus/parahippocampal gyrus, posterior cingulate cortex, and supplementary motor area.
These observations are in line with the hypothesized role of the dorsal striatum for the expression of drug habits and the well-established concept of drug-related automatized schemata, since haptic perception is more closely linked to the corresponding object-specific action pattern than visual perception. Moreover, our findings demonstrate that with the growing severity of nicotine dependence, brain regions involved in object perception, memory, self-processing, and motor control exhibit an increasing preference for haptic over visual smoking cues. This difference was not found for control stimuli. Considering the sensory modality of the presented cues could serve to develop more reliable fMRI-specific biomarkers, more ecologically valid experimental designs, and more effective cue-exposure therapies of addiction.