The neural mechanisms underlying the acute effect of cigarette smoking on chronic smokers

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Although previous research had related structural changes and impaired cognition to chronic cigarette smoking, recent neuroimaging studies have associated nicotine, which is a main chemical substance in cigarettes, with improvements in cognitive functions (e.g. improved attention performance). However, information about the alterations of whole-brain functional connectivity after acute cigarette smoking is limited. In this study, 22 smokers underwent resting-state functional magnetic resonance imaging (rs-fMRI) after abstaining from smoking for 12 hours (state of abstinence, SOA). Subsequently, the smokers were allowed to smoke two cigarettes (state of satisfaction, SOS) before they underwent a second rs-fMRI. Twenty non-smokers were also recruited to undergo rs-fMRI. In addition, high-resolution 3D T1-weighted images were acquired using the same magnetic resonance imaging(fMRI)scanner for all participants. The results showed that smokers had structural changes in insula, thalamus, medial frontal cortex and several regions of the default mode network (DMN) compared with non-smokers. Voxel-wise group comparisons of newly developed global brain connectivity (GBC) showed that smokers in the SOA condition had higher GBC in the insula and superior frontal gyrus compared with non-smokers. However, smokers in the SOS condition demonstrated significantly lower GBC in several regions of the DMN, as compared with smokers in the SOA condition. These results suggest that structural integrity combined with dysfunction of the DMN might be involved in relapses after a short period of time among smokers. © 2014 Wang et al.




Wang, K., Yang, J., Zhang, S., Wei, D., Hao, X., Tu, S., & Qiu, J. (2014). The neural mechanisms underlying the acute effect of cigarette smoking on chronic smokers. PLoS ONE, 9(7).

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