Brain Imaging and Behavior

, Volume 1, Issue 3–4, pp 43–57 | Cite as

Effects of Acute Nicotine Abstinence on Cue-elicited Ventral Striatum/Nucleus Accumbens Activation in Female Cigarette Smokers: A Functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging Study

  • Sean P. David
  • Marcus R. Munafò
  • Heidi Johansen-Berg
  • James MacKillop
  • Lawrence H. Sweet
  • Ronald A. Cohen
  • Raymond Niaura
  • Robert D. Rogers
  • Paul M. Matthews
  • Robert T. Walton


To achieve greater understanding of the brain mechanisms underlying nicotine craving in female smokers, we examined the influence of nicotine non-abstinence vs. acute nicotine abstinence on cue-elicited activation of the ventral striatum. Eight female smokers underwent an event-related functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) paradigm presenting randomized sequences of smoking-related and non-smoking related pictures. Participants were asked to indicate by a key press the gender of individuals in smoking-related and non-smoking related pictures (gender discrimination task), to maintain and evaluate attention to the pictures. There was a significant effect of smoking condition on reaction times (RT) for a gender discrimination task intended to assess and maintain attention to the photographs—suggesting a deprivation effect of acute nicotine abstinence and a statistical trend indicating greater RTs for smoking cues than neutral cues. BOLD contrast (smoking vs. non-smoking cues) was greater in the non-abstinent vs. acutely abstinent conditions in the ventral striatum including the nucleus accumbens (VS/NAc). Moreover, a significant positive correlation was observed between baseline cigarette craving prior to scanning and VS/NAc activation (r = 0.84, p = 0.009), but only in the non-abstinent condition. These results may either be explained by ceiling effects of nicotine withdrawal in the abstinent condition or, may indicate reduced relative activation (smoking vs. neutral contrast) in the VS/NAc in the abstinent vs. non-abstinent conditions in this group of female smokers.


fMRI Smoking Tobacco Cue reactivity Ventral striatum Nucleus accumbens 



This research was funded by Public Health Service grant K08 DA14276 from the National Institute on Drug Abuse/National Institutes of Health, and by Cancer Research UK. Work in the Centre for Functional Neuroimaging of the Brain (FMRIB) and personal support to PMM come from the Medical Research Council. We would like to acknowledge Peter Hobden for assistance in protocol development and scanner operation.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2007

Authors and Affiliations

  • Sean P. David
    • 1
    • 2
  • Marcus R. Munafò
    • 3
  • Heidi Johansen-Berg
    • 4
  • James MacKillop
    • 5
  • Lawrence H. Sweet
    • 6
  • Ronald A. Cohen
    • 6
  • Raymond Niaura
    • 7
  • Robert D. Rogers
    • 8
  • Paul M. Matthews
    • 9
  • Robert T. Walton
    • 10
  1. 1.Department of Clinical PharmacologyUniversity of Oxford, Radcliffe InfirmaryOxfordUK
  2. 2.Center for Primary Care & PreventionThe Warren Alpert Medical School of Brown UniversityPawtucketUSA
  3. 3.Department of Experimental PsychologyUniversity of BristolBristolUK
  4. 4.Department of Clinical Neurology, John Radcliffe HospitalThe University of OxfordOxfordUK
  5. 5.Center for Alcohol and Addiction StudiesThe Warren Alpert Medical School of Brown UniversityPawtucketUSA
  6. 6.Centers for Behavioral and Preventive MedicineThe Warren Alpert Medical School of Brown UniversityPawtucketUSA
  7. 7.Department of Psychiatry & Human BehaviorThe Warren Alpert Medical School of Brown UniversityPawtucketUSA
  8. 8.Department of PsychiatryUniversity of OxfordOxfordUK
  9. 9.GlaxoSmithKline Clinical Imaging CentreLondonUK
  10. 10.Medical Research Council LaboratoriesFajaraThe Gambia

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