Smoking Abstinence and Neurocognition: Implications for Cessation and Relapse

  • F. Joseph McClernonEmail author
  • Merideth A. Addicott
  • Maggie M. Sweitzer
Part of the Current Topics in Behavioral Neurosciences book series (CTBN, volume 23)


In this chapter, we review the last decade of research on the effects of smoking abstinence on various forms of neurocognition, including executive function (working memory, sustained attention, response inhibition), reward processing, and cue-reactivity. In our review we identify smoking abstinence-induced deficits in executive function mediated by effects on frontal circuitry, which in turn is known to be affected by modulation of cholinergic, dopaminergic, and other neurotransmitter systems. We also review evidence that smoking abstinence blunts reactivity to non-drug reinforcers—a finding that is consistent with results in the animal literature. Finally, our review of cue-reactivity indicates that smoking abstinence does not appear to amplify cue-provoked craving, although it may increase attentional bias to smoking-related cues. Inconsistencies across findings and potential contributing factors are discussed. In addition, we review the literature on the effects of nicotine and non-nicotine factors in neurocognition. Finally, we provide a multi-factor model and an agenda for future research on the effects of smoking abstinence on neurocognition. The model includes four distinct yet interacting factors, including: Negative Reinforcement, Drug-Reward Bias, Goal and Skill Interference, and Non-Cognitive Factors. Additional research is needed to further evaluate the scope and time-course of abstinence-induced changes in neurocognition, the mechanisms that underlie these changes and the specific role of these processes in drug reinforcement, lapse, and relapse.


Nicotine Tobacco Withdrawal Smoking Executive function Reward processing Cue-reactivity Cognition Neurocognition fMRI 



Funding: NIDA grants R01 DA025876 (FJM), R01 DA024838 (FJM) and K01 DA033347 (MAA).


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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing Switzerland 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  • F. Joseph McClernon
    • 1
    • 2
    Email author
  • Merideth A. Addicott
    • 1
    • 2
  • Maggie M. Sweitzer
    • 1
    • 2
  1. 1.Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral SciencesDuke University School of MedicineDurhamUSA
  2. 2.Duke-UNC Brain Imaging and Analysis CenterDuke University School of MedicineDurhamUSA

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