, Volume 219, Issue 2, pp 563–573 | Cite as

Smoking withdrawal is associated with increases in brain activation during decision making and reward anticipation: a preliminary study

  • Merideth A. Addicott
  • David A. A. Baranger
  • Rachel V. Kozink
  • Moria J. Smoski
  • Gabriel S. Dichter
  • F. Joseph McClernonEmail author
Original Investigation



Acute nicotine abstinence is associated with disruption of executive function and reward processes; however, the neurobiological basis of these effects has not been fully elucidated.


The effects of nicotine abstinence on brain function during reward-based probabilistic decision making were preliminarily investigated by scanning adult smokers (n = 13) following 24 h of smoking abstinence and in a smoking-satiated condition. During fMRI scanning, participants completed the wheel of fortune task (Ernst et al. in Neuropsychologia 42:1585–1597, 2004), a decision-making task with probabilistic monetary outcomes. Brain activation was modeled during selection of options, anticipation of outcomes, and outcome feedback.


During choice selection, reaction times were slower, and there was greater neural activation in the postcentral gyrus, insula, and frontal and parietal cortices in the abstinent condition compared to the satiated condition. During reward anticipation, greater activation was observed in the frontal pole, insula, and paracingulate cortex in the abstinent condition compared to the satiated condition. Greater activation was also shown in the precentral gyrus and putamen in the satiated condition compared to the abstinent condition. During the outcome phase, rewards (compared to no rewards) resulted in significant activation in the paracingulate cortex in the satiated condition compared to the abstinent condition.


The results of this preliminary study suggest that smoking withdrawal results in greater recruitment of insular, frontal, and parietal cortical areas during probabilistic decision making.


Smoking Abstinence Decision making Risk Neuroimaging fMRI 



We thank Avery Lutz for her assistance with data acquisition. This research was supported by NIDA grants K23DA017261 and R01 DA023516 to FJM, R03 MH078145 and K23 MH081285 to GSD, and K23 MH087754 to MJS.

Disclosure/conflict of interest

Dr. Addicott, Mr. Baranger, Ms. Kozink, Dr. Smoski, and Dr. Dichter report no conflicts of interest. Dr. McClernon has received research funding from the National Institute on Drug Abuse, the Atkins Foundation, and an unrestricted grant from Philip Morris USA to Duke University (Dr. Jed E. Rose, PI).


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  • Merideth A. Addicott
    • 1
    • 2
  • David A. A. Baranger
    • 1
    • 2
  • Rachel V. Kozink
    • 1
    • 2
  • Moria J. Smoski
    • 1
    • 2
  • Gabriel S. Dichter
    • 1
    • 2
    • 3
  • F. Joseph McClernon
    • 1
    • 2
    • 4
    Email author
  1. 1.Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral SciencesDuke University Medical CenterDurhamUSA
  2. 2.Duke-UNC Brain Imaging and Analysis CenterDurhamUSA
  3. 3.Department of Psychiatry, School of MedicineUniversity of North Carolina at Chapel HillChapel HillUSA
  4. 4.Durham Veterans Affairs Medical Center, VISN 6 Mental Illness Research, Education, and Clinical CenterDurhamUSA

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