, Volume 233, Issue 5, pp 751–760 | Cite as

Blunted striatal response to monetary reward anticipation during smoking abstinence predicts lapse during a contingency-managed quit attempt

  • Maggie M. SweitzerEmail author
  • Charles F. Geier
  • Rachel Denlinger
  • Erika E. Forbes
  • Bethany R. Raiff
  • Jesse Dallery
  • F. J. McClernon
  • Eric C. Donny
Original Investigation



Tobacco smoking is associated with dysregulated reward processing within the striatum, characterized by hypersensitivity to smoking rewards and hyposensitivity to non-smoking rewards. This bias toward smoking reward at the expense of alternative rewards is further exacerbated by deprivation from smoking, which may contribute to difficulty maintaining abstinence during a quit attempt.


We examined whether abstinence-induced changes in striatal processing of rewards predicted lapse likelihood during a quit attempt supported by contingency management (CM), in which abstinence from smoking was reinforced with money.


Thirty-six non-treatment-seeking smokers participated in two functional MRI (fMRI) sessions, one following 24-h abstinence and one following smoking as usual. During each scan, participants completed a rewarded guessing task designed to elicit striatal activation in which they could earn smoking and monetary rewards delivered after the scan. Participants then engaged in a 3-week CM-supported quit attempt.


As previously reported, 24-h abstinence was associated with increased striatal activation in anticipation of smoking reward and decreased activation in anticipation of monetary reward. Individuals exhibiting greater decrements in right striatal activation to monetary reward during abstinence (controlling for activation during non-abstinence) were more likely to lapse during CM (p < 0.025), even when controlling for other predictors of lapse outcome (e.g., craving); no association was seen for smoking reward.


These results are consistent with a growing number of studies indicating the specific importance of disrupted striatal processing of non-drug reward in nicotine dependence and highlight the importance of individual differences in abstinence-induced deficits in striatal function for smoking cessation.


Smoking Nicotine Reward Ventral striatum fMRI Relapse Abstinence Withdrawal Cessation Contingency management 



This research was supported by NIH grant (DA027441) to ECD. Maggie Sweitzer was supported by NSF IGERT award (0549352) and the Center for the Neural Basis of Cognition.

Compliance with ethical standard

Conflict of interest

The authors have no conflicts of interest to report.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  • Maggie M. Sweitzer
    • 1
    Email author
  • Charles F. Geier
    • 2
  • Rachel Denlinger
    • 3
  • Erika E. Forbes
    • 3
    • 4
    • 5
    • 6
  • Bethany R. Raiff
    • 7
  • Jesse Dallery
    • 8
  • F. J. McClernon
    • 1
  • Eric C. Donny
    • 3
    • 4
    • 6
  1. 1.Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral SciencesDuke University Medical CenterDurhamUSA
  2. 2.Department of Human Development and Family StudiesPenn State UniversityUniversity ParkUSA
  3. 3.Department of PsychologyUniversity of PittsburghPittsburghUSA
  4. 4.Department of PsychiatryUniversity of Pittsburgh Medical CenterPittsburghUSA
  5. 5.Department of PediatricsUniversity of PittsburghPittsburghUSA
  6. 6.Center for Neural Basis of CognitionUniversity of Pittsburgh and Carnegie Mellon UniversityPittsburghUSA
  7. 7.Department of PsychologyRowan UniversityGlassboroUSA
  8. 8.Department of PsychologyUniversity of FloridaGainesvilleUSA

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