Aims: This study examined brain activity using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) and reaction time (RT) during an implicit repetition priming memory task involving alcohol, polydrug, marijuana and emotional picture cues. Methods: Participants were 5 male and 5 female high-risk college students who had just participated in a cue exposure study (Ray et al., this issue). fMRI and RT data were collected while participants made decisions about previously seen and new picture cues. Results: Both behavioral RT and brain imaging data revealed strong memory priming for drug and alcohol cues. Neurologically, a repetition priming effect (suppression in neural activity for repeated cues) was observed in response to alcohol cues in the left prefrontal, bilateral occipital, and bilateral occipitotemporal regions, as well as right insula and right precuneus (Z ranged from 3.03 to 3.31 P < 0.05). Polydrug cues elicited priming in the occipital and temporal areas, and marijuana cues in the occipital area. Conclusions: Prefrontal and insular cortex involvement both in reactivity to alcohol cues (Ray et al., this issue) and subsequent implicit memory processing of these cues, as found in this study, suggests their potential role in the maintenance of high-risk alcohol use behaviors.
Objective: We evaluated the effect of short-term and long-term heroin abstinence on brain responses to heroin-related cues using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI). Methods: Eighteen male heroin addicts following short-term abstinence and 19 male heroin addicts following long-term abstinence underwent fMRI scanning while viewing heroin-related and neutral images. Cue-elicited craving and withdrawal symptoms in the subjects were measured. Results: Following short-term abstinence, greater activation was found in response to heroin cues compared to neutral cues in bilateral temporal, occipital, posterior cingulate, anterior cingulate, thalamus, cerebellum, and left hippocampus. In contrast, activations in bilateral temporal and occipital and deactivations in bilateral frontal, bilateral parietal, left posterior cingulate, insula, thalamus, dorsal striatum, and bilateral cerebellum were observed following long-term abstinence. Direct comparisons between conditions showed greater brain reactivity in response to smoking cues following short-term abstinence. In addition, short-term abstinence had more serious withdrawal symptoms than the long-term. Conclusion: The present findings indicate that compared to short-term, long-term abstinence manifests less serious withdrawal symptoms and significantly decreases neural responses to heroin-related cues in brain regions subserving visual sensory processing, attention, memory, and action planning. These findings suggest that long-term abstinence can decrease the salience of conditioned cues, thereby reducing the risk of relapses. The study's limitations are noted.
abstinence; cue-reactivity; craving; heroin dependence; fMRI
High sensation seeking has been linked to increased risk for drug abuse and other negative behavioral outcomes. This study explored the neurobiological basis of this personality trait using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI). High sensation seekers (HSSs) and low sensation seekers (LSSs) viewed high- and low-arousal pictures. Comparison of the groups revealed that HSSs showed stronger fMRI responses to high-arousal stimuli in brain regions associated with arousal and reinforcement (right insula, posterior medial orbitofrontal cortex), whereas LSSs showed greater activation and earlier onset of fMRI responses to high-arousal stimuli in regions involved in emotional regulation (anterior medial orbitofrontal cortex, anterior cingulate). Furthermore, fMRI response in anterior medial orbitofrontal cortex and anterior cingulate was negatively correlated with urgency. Finally, LSSs showed greater sensitivity to the valence of the stimuli than did HSSs. These distinct neurobiological profiles suggest that HSSs exhibit neural responses consistent with an overactive approach system, whereas LSSs exhibit responses consistent with a stronger inhibitory system.
Reactivity to smoking-related cues may be an important factor that precipitates relapse in smokers who are trying to quit. The neurobiology of smoking cue reactivity has been investigated in several fMRI studies. We combined the results of these studies using activation likelihood estimation, a meta-analytic technique for fMRI data. Results of the meta-analysis indicated that smoking cues reliably evoke larger fMRI responses than neutral cues in the extended visual system, precuneus, posterior cingulate gyrus, anterior cingulate gyrus, dorsal and medial prefrontal cortex, insula, and dorsal striatum. Subtraction meta-analyses revealed that parts of the extended visual system and dorsal prefrontal cortex are more reliably responsive to smoking cues in deprived smokers than in non-deprived smokers, and that short-duration cues presented in event-related designs produce larger responses in the extended visual system than long-duration cues presented in blocked designs. The areas that were found to be responsive to smoking cues agree with theories of the neurobiology of cue reactivity, with two exceptions. First, there was a reliable cue reactivity effect in the precuneus, which is not typically considered a brain region important to addiction. Second, we found no significant effect in the nucleus accumbens, an area that plays a critical role in addiction, but this effect may have been due to technical difficulties associated with measuring fMRI data in that region. The results of this meta-analysis suggest that the extended visual system should receive more attention in future studies of smoking cue reactivity.
smoking; cue reactivity; fMRI; meta-analysis; tobacco; addiction
Perception of emotion is critical for successful social interaction, yet the neural mechanisms underlying the perception of dynamic, audiovisual emotional cues are poorly understood. Evidence from language and sensory paradigms suggests that the superior temporal sulcus and gyrus (STS/STG) play a key role in the integration of auditory and visual cues. Emotion perception research has focused on static facial cues; however, dynamic audiovisual (AV) cues mimic real-world social cues more accurately than static and/or unimodal stimuli. Novel dynamic AV stimuli were presented using a block design in two fMRI studies, comparing bimodal stimuli to unimodal conditions, and emotional to neutral stimuli. Results suggest that the bilateral superior temporal region plays distinct roles in the perception of emotion and in the integration of auditory and visual cues. Given the greater ecological validity of the stimuli developed for this study, this paradigm may be helpful in elucidating the deficits in emotion perception experienced by clinical populations.
audio-visual integration; fMRI; prosody; face perception; emotion; cross-modal
Few studies have examined associations between depressive symptoms and alterations in neural systems that subserve cognitive control. Cognitive control was assessed with an exogenous cueing task using happy, sad, and neutral facial expressions as cues among women with mild to moderate symptoms of depression and a non-depressed control group while functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) measured brain activity. Amygdala and medial/orbital PFC response to valid emotion cues did not differ as a function of depression symptoms. However, significant depression group differences were observed when task demands required cognitive control. Participants with elevated depression symptoms showed weaker activation in right and left lateral PFC and parietal regions when shifting attentional focus away from invalid emotion cues. No depression group differences were observed for invalid non-emotional cues. Findings suggest that mild to moderate depression symptoms are associated with altered function in brain regions that mediate cognitive control of emotional information.
fMRI; emotion processing; reaction time; ventral lateral PFC
Stress and alcohol context cues are each associated with alcohol-related behaviors, yet neural responses underlying these processes remain unclear. The present study investigated the neural correlates of stress and alcohol context cue experiences and examined sex differences in these responses. Using functional magnetic resonance imaging, brain responses were examined while 43 right-handed, socially drinking, healthy individuals (23 females) engaged in brief guided imagery of personalized stress, alcohol-cue and neutral-relaxing scenarios. Stress and alcohol-cue exposure increased activity in the cortico-limbic-striatal circuit (p<.01, corrected), encompassing the medial prefrontal cortex (mPFC), orbitofrontal cortex (OFC), anterior cingulate cortex (ACC), left anterior insula, striatum and visuomotor regions (parietal and occipital lobe, and cerebellum). Activity in the right dorsal striatum increased during stress, while bilateral ventral striatum activity was evident during alcohol-cue exposure. Men displayed greater stress-related activations in the mPFC, rostral ACC, posterior insula, amygdala and hippocampus than women, whereas women showed greater alcohol-cue related activity in the superior and middle frontal gyrus (SFG/MFG) than men. Stress-induced anxiety was positively associated with activity in emotion modulation regions, including the medial OFC, ventromedial PFC, left superior-medial PFC and rostral ACC in men, but in women with activation in the SFG/MFG, regions involved in cognitive processing. Alcohol craving was significantly associated with the striatum (encompassing dorsal and ventral) in men, supporting its involvement in alcohol ‘urge’ in healthy men. These results indicate sex differences in neural processing of stress and alcohol-cue experiences, and have implications for sex-specific vulnerabilities to stress- and alcohol-related psychiatric disorders.
Sex differences; Stress; Alcohol cue; Reward; Brain fMRI; Prefrontal Cortex
Neuroimaging is becoming increasingly common in obesity research as investigators try to understand the neurological underpinnings of appetite and body weight in humans. Positron emission tomography (PET), functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) studies examining responses to food intake and food cues, dopamine function and brain volume in lean vs. obese individuals are now beginning to coalesce in identifying irregularities in a range of regions implicated in reward (e.g. striatum, orbitofrontal cortex, insula), emotion and memory (e.g. amygdala, hippocampus), homeostatic regulation of intake (e.g. hypothalamus), sensory and motor processing (e.g. insula, precentral gyrus), and cognitive control and attention (e.g. prefrontal cortex, cingulate). Studies of weight change in children and adolescents, and those at high genetic risk for obesity, promise to illuminate causal processes. Studies examining specific eating behaviours (e.g. external eating, emotional eating, dietary restraint) are teaching us about the distinct neural networks that drive components of appetite, and contribute to the phenotype of body weight. Finally, innovative investigations of appetite-related hormones, including studies of abnormalities (e.g. leptin deficiency) and interventions (e.g. leptin replacement, bariatric surgery), are shedding light on the interactive relationship between gut and brain. The dynamic distributed vulnerability model of eating behaviour in obesity that we propose has scientific and practical implications.
Brain imaging; cue responsivity; food reward; mesolimbic pathway
Although stress and drug cue exposure each increase drug craving and contribute to relapse in cocaine dependence, no previous research has directly examined the neural correlates of stress-induced and drug cue-induced craving in cocaine-dependent women and men relative to comparison subjects.
Functional MRI was used to assess responses to individualized scripts for stress, drug/alcohol cue and neutral-relaxing-imagery conditions in 30 abstinent cocaine-dependent individuals (16 women, 14 men) and 36 healthy recreational-drinking comparison subjects (18 women, 18 men).
Significant three-way interactions between diagnostic group, sex, and script condition were observed in multiple brain regions including the striatum, insula, and anterior and posterior cingulate. Within women, group-by-condition interactions were observed involving these regions and were attributable to relatively increased regional activations in cocaine-dependent women during the stress and, to a lesser extent, neutral-relaxing conditions. Within men, group main effects were observed involving these same regions, with cocaine-dependent men demonstrating relatively increased activation across conditions, with the main contributions from the drug and neutral-relaxing conditions. In men and women, subjective drug-induced craving measures correlated positively with corticostriatal-limbic activations.
In cocaine dependence, corticostriatal-limbic hyperactivity appears to be linked to stress cues in women, drug cues in men, and neutral-relaxing conditions in both. These findings suggest that sex should be taken into account in the selection of therapies in the treatment of addiction, particularly those targeting stress reduction.
Abnormal cue reactivity is a central characteristic of addiction, associated with increased activity in motivation, attention and memory related brain circuits. In this neuroimaging study, cue reactivity in problem gamblers (PRG) was compared with cue reactivity in heavy smokers (HSM) and healthy controls (HC). A functional magnetic resonance imaging event-related cue reactivity paradigm, consisting of gambling, smoking-related and neutral pictures, was employed in 17 treatment-seeking non-smoking PRG, 18 non-gambling HSM, and 17 non-gambling and non-smoking HC. Watching gambling pictures (relative to neutral pictures) was associated with higher brain activation in occipitotemporal areas, posterior cingulate cortex, parahippocampal gyrus and amygdala in PRG compared with HC and HSM. Subjective craving in PRG correlated positively with brain activation in left ventrolateral prefrontal cortex and left insula. When comparing the HSM group with the two other groups, no significant differences in brain activity induced by smoking cues were found. In a stratified analysis, the HSM subgroup with higher Fagerström Test for Nicotine Dependence scores (FTND M = 5.4) showed higher brain activation in ventromedial prefrontal cortex, rostral anterior cingulate cortex, insula and middle/superior temporal gyrus while watching smoking-related pictures (relative to neutral pictures) than the HSM subgroup with lower FTND scores (FTND M = 2.9) and than non-smoking HC. Nicotine craving correlated with activation in left prefrontal and left amygdala when viewing smoking-related pictures in HSM. Increased regional responsiveness to gambling pictures in brain regions linked to motivation and visual processing is present in PRG, similar to neural mechanisms underlying cue reactivity in substance dependence. Increased brain activation in related fronto-limbic brain areas was present in HSM with higher FTND scores compared with HSM with lower FTND scores.
Addiction; cue reactivity; fMRI; impulse control disorder; nicotine dependence; pathological gambling
Previous research indicates that drug motivational systems are instantiated in structures that process information related to incentive, motivational drive, memorial, motor/habit, craving, and cognitive control processing. The present research tests the hypothesis that activity in such systems will be powerfully affected by the combination of drug anticipation and drug withdrawal. Event-related fMRI was used to examine activation in response to a pre-infusion warning cue in two experimental sessions that manipulated withdrawal status. Significant cue-induced effects were seen in the caudate, ventral anterior nucleus of the thalamus, the insula, subcallosal gyrus, nucleus accumbens, and anterior cingulate. These results suggest that withdrawal and nicotine anticipation produce (1) different motor preparatory and inhibitory response processing and (2) different craving related processing.
Experiencing negative affect frequently precedes lapses in self-control for dieters, smokers, and drug addicts. Laboratory research has similarly shown that inducing negative emotional distress increases the consumption of food or drugs. One hypothesis for this finding is that emotional distress sensitizes the brain’s reward system to appetitive stimuli. Using functional neuroimaging, we demonstrate that inducing negative affect in chronic dieters increases activity in brain regions representing the reward value of appetitive stimuli when viewing appetizing food cues. Thirty female chronic dieters were randomly assigned to receive either a negative (n = 15) or neutral mood induction (n = 15) immediately followed by exposure to images of appetizing foods and natural scenes during functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI). Compared to chronic dieters in a neutral mood, those receiving a negative mood induction showed increased activity in the orbitofrontal cortex to appetizing food images. In addition, activity to food images in the orbitofrontal cortex and ventral striatum was correlated with individual differences in the degree to which the negative mood induction decreased participants’ self-esteem. These findings suggest that distress sensitizes the brain’s reward system to appetitive cues thereby offering a mechanism for the oft-observed relationship between negative affect and disinhibited eating.
Reward; Food; Obesity; Dieting; Mood; Emotion; Cue-Reactivity; Orbitofrontal Cortex
The anticipation of adverse outcomes, or worry, is a cardinal symptom of generalized anxiety disorder. Prior work with healthy subjects has shown that anticipating aversive events recruits a network of brain regions, including the amygdala and anterior cingulate cortex. This study tested whether patients with generalized anxiety disorder have alterations in anticipatory amygdala function and whether anticipatory activity in the anterior cingulate cortex predicts treatment response.
Functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) was employed with 14 generalized anxiety disorder patients and 12 healthy comparison subjects matched for age, sex, and education. The event-related fMRI paradigm was composed of one warning cue that preceded aversive pictures and a second cue that preceded neutral pictures. Following the fMRI session, patients received 8 weeks of treatment with extended-release venlafaxine.
Patients with generalized anxiety disorder showed greater anticipatory activity than healthy comparison subjects in the bilateral dorsal amygdala preceding both aversive and neutral pictures. Building on prior reports of pretreatment anterior cingulate cortex activity predicting treatment response, anticipatory activity in that area was associated with clinical outcome 8 weeks later following treatment with venlafaxine. Higher levels of pretreatment anterior cingulate cortex activity in anticipation of both aversive and neutral pictures were associated with greater reductions in anxiety and worry symptoms.
These findings of heightened and indiscriminate amygdala responses to anticipatory signals in generalized anxiety disorder and of anterior cingulate cortex associations with treatment response provide neurobiological support for the role of anticipatory processes in the pathophysiology of generalized anxiety disorder.
Psychophysiological and neuroscience studies of emotional processing undertaken by investigators at the University of Florida Laboratory of the Center for the Study of Emotion and Attention (CSEA) are reviewed, with a focus on reflex reactions, neural structures and functional circuits that mediate emotional expression. The theoretical view shared among the investigators is that expressed emotions are founded on motivational circuits in the brain that developed early in evolutionary history to ensure the survival of individuals and their progeny. These circuits react to appetitive and aversive environmental and memorial cues, mediating appetitive and defensive reflexes that tune sensory systems and mobilize the organism for action and underly negative and positive affects. The research reviewed here assesses the reflex physiology of emotion, both autonomic and somatic, studying affects evoked in picture perception, memory imagery, and in the context of tangible reward and punishment, and using the electroencephalograph (EEG) and functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), explores the brain’s motivational circuits that determine human emotion.
The behavioral approach system (BAS) from Gray’s reinforcement sensitivity theory is a neurobehavioral system involved in the processing of rewarding stimuli that has been related to dopaminergic brain areas. Gray’s theory hypothesizes that the functioning of reward brain areas is modulated by BAS-related traits. To test this hypothesis, we performed an fMRI study where participants viewed erotic and neutral pictures, and cues that predicted their appearance. Forty-five heterosexual men completed the Sensitivity to Reward scale (from the Sensitivity to Punishment and Sensitivity to Reward Questionnaire) to measure BAS-related traits. Results showed that Sensitivity to Reward scores correlated positively with brain activity during reactivity to erotic pictures in the left orbitofrontal cortex, left insula, and right ventral striatum. These results demonstrated a relationship between the BAS and reward sensitivity during the processing of erotic stimuli, filling the gap of previous reports that identified the dopaminergic system as a neural substrate for the BAS during the processing of other rewarding stimuli such as money and food.
Reactivity to smoking-related cues may play a role in the maintenance of smoking behavior and may change depending on smoking status. Whether smoking cue-related functional MRI (fMRI) reactivity differs between active smoking and extended smoking abstinence states currently is unknown.
We used fMRI to measure brain reactivity in response to smoking-related versus neutral images in 13 tobacco-dependent subjects prior to a smoking cessation attempt and again during extended smoking abstinence (52 ± 11 days) aided by nicotine replacement therapy.
Pre-quit smoking cue induced fMRI activity patterns paralleled those reported in prior smoking cue reactivity fMRI studies. Greater fMRI activity was detected during extended smoking abstinence than during the pre-quit assessment subcortically in the caudate nucleus and cortically in prefrontal (BA 6, 9, 44, 46), primary somatosensory (BA 1,2,3), temporal (BA 22, 41, 42), parietal (BA 7, 40) anterior cingulate (BA 24, 32), and posterior cingulate (BA 31) cortex.
These data suggest that during extended smoking abstinence, fMRI reactivity to smoking versus neutral stimuli persists in brain areas involved in attention, somatosensory processing, motor planning, and conditioned cue responding. In some brain regions, fMRI smoking cue reactivity is increased during extended smoking abstinence in comparison to the pre-quit state, which may contribute to persisting relapse vulnerability.
abstinence; addiction; caudate nucleus; fMRI; nicotine
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
Prior neuroimaging studies support the hypothesis that anticipation, an important component of anxiety, may be mediated by activation within the insular and medial prefrontal cortices including the anterior cingulate cortex. However, there is an insufficient understanding of how affective anticipation differs across anxiety groups in emotional brain loci and networks. We examined 14 anxiety positive (AP) and 14 anxiety normative (AN) individuals completing an affective picture anticipation task during functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI). Brain activation was examined across groups for cued anticipation (to aversive or pleasant stimuli). Both groups showed greater activation in the bilateral anterior insula during cued differential anticipation (i.e., aversive vs. pleasant) and activation on the right was significantly higher in AP compared to AN subjects. Functional connectivity showed that the left anterior insula was involved in a similar network during pleasant anticipation in both groups. The left anterior insula during aversive and the right anterior insula during all anticipation conditions co-activated with a cortical network consisting of frontal and parietal lobes in the AP group to a greater degree. These results are consistent with the hypothesis that anxiety is related to greater anticipatory reactivity in the brain and that there may be functional asymmetries in the brain that interact with psychiatric traits.
A distributed network of brain regions is linked to drug-related cue responding. However, the relationships between smoking cue-induced phasic activity and possible underlying differences in brain structure, tonic neuronal activity and connectivity between these brain areas are as yet unclear. Twenty-two smokers and 22 controls viewed smoking-related and neutral pictures during a functional arterial spin labeling scanning session. T1, resting functional, and diffusion tensor imaging data were also collected. Six brain areas, dorsal lateral prefrontal cortex (dlPFC), dorsal medial prefrontal cortex (dmPFC), dorsal anterior cingulate cortex/cingulate cortex, rostral anterior cingulate cortex (rACC), occipital cortex, and insula/operculum, showed significant smoking cue-elicited activity in smokers when compared with controls and were subjected to secondary analysis for resting state functional connectivity (rsFC), structural, and tonic neuronal activity. rsFC strength between rACC and dlPFC was positively correlated with the cue-elicited activity in dlPFC. Similarly, rsFC strength between dlPFC and dmPFC was positively correlated with the cue-elicited activity in dmPFC while rsFC strength between dmPFC and insula/operculum was negatively correlated with the cue-elicited activity in both dmPFC and insula/operculum, suggesting these brain circuits may facilitate the response to the salient smoking cues. Further, the gray matter density in dlPFC was decreased in smokers and correlated with cue-elicited activity in the same brain area, suggesting a neurobiological mechanism for the impaired cognitive control associated with drug use. Taken together, these results begin to address the underlying neurobiology of smoking cue salience, and may speak to novel treatment strategies and targets for therapeutic interventions.
Smoking cue; anatomical; ASL; DTI; VBM; resting state functional connectivity
In recent years, research applying functional neuroimaging to the study of cue-elicited drug craving has emerged. This research has begun to identify a distributed system of brain activity during drug craving. A review of this literature suggested that expectations regarding the opportunity to use a drug affected the pattern of neural responses elicited by drug cues. Using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), we examined the effects of smoking expectancy on the neural response to neutral (e.g., roll of tape) and smoking-related (a cigarette) stimuli in male cigarette smokers deprived of nicotine for 8 hr. As predicted, several brain regions (e.g., the anterior cingulate cortex) exhibited differential activation during cigarette versus neutral cue exposure. Moreover, we found that subregions of the prefrontal cortex (i.e., ventromedial, ventrolateral, and dorsolateral prefrontal cortices) showed cue-elicited activation that was modulated by smoking expectancy. These results highlight the importance of perceived drug use opportunity in the neurobiological response to drug cues.
Previous research findings have linked caregiver deprivation and emotional neglect with sensitivity to threatening cues. The present preliminary study investigated whether dysfunctions of the medial temporal lobe could underlie these associations. Using fMRI, we measured medial temporal lobe responses to emotional faces (angry, fearful, happy, neutral) among 30 youths. Eleven of the youths had a history of caregiver deprivation and emotional neglect. Attention states (i.e., attention to anger, fear, or physical attributes, or passive viewing) were systematically manipulated. Relative to comparison youths, youths with a history of caregiver deprivation and emotional neglect showed significantly greater left amygdala and left anterior hippocampus activation during the processing of threatening information. To our knowledge, these findings are the first to demonstrate altered medial temporal lobe function during the processing of threat cues in youths with a history of caregiver deprivation and emotional neglect.
Since the effect of alcohol and its environmental cues on brain dopamine have been implicated in the maintenance of heavy drinking, drugs that modify dopamine might be useful in reducing drinking or promoting abstinence. The goal of the current study was to utilize an established brain imaging paradigm to explore the effect of aripiprazole (final dose 15mg over a 14 day period), a dopamine stabilizer medication, on alcohol cue-induced brain activation and drinking in alcoholics. Non-treatment seeking alcoholics were randomly assigned aripiprazole (n= 14) or identical placebo (n=16) and reported their alcohol use while taking study medication for 14 days prior to an alcohol cue induced brain fMRI imaging study. In a Philips 3.0 Tesla MRI scanner, subjects were given a sip of alcohol before viewing a randomized presentation alcohol and non alcohol beverage pictures while subjects rated their urge to drink. During picture presentation, changes in regional brain activity were measured and differences between viewing alcoholic beverage and non-alcoholic beverages were compared within and between groups. Brain activity analysis revealed increased activation for placebo-treated subjects in the right ventral striatum (p<.005, threshold 15 voxels) while there was a blunting of activation in this area in the aripiprazole-treated subjects. Aripiprazole-treated subjects, compared to placebo-treated subjects, also had significantly less heavy drinking during the 14-day medication period. The study provides both novel and valuable information regarding the effect of aripiprazole on cue-induced brain activation and voluntary drinking during treatment.
Neuroimaging; Alcoholism; Craving; Aripiprazole
Using fMRI, we examined whether or not adolescents with low levels of nicotine exposure (light smokers) display neural activation in areas shown to be involved with addiction in response to smoking-related stimuli.
Twelve adolescent light smokers (aged 13 to17, smoked 1 to 5 cigarettes per day) and 12 non-smokers (ages 13 to 17, never smoked a cigarette) from the San Francisco Bay Area underwent fMRI scanning. During scanning they viewed blocks of photographic smoking and control cues. Smoking cues consisted of pictures of people smoking cigarettes and smoking-related objects such as lighters and ashtrays. Neutral cues consisted of everyday objects and people engaged in everyday activities.
For smokers, smoking cues elicited greater activation than neutral cues in the mesolimbic reward circuit (left anterior cingulate (T=7.88, p<.001), right hippocampus (T=6.62, p<.001) and right parahippocampal gyrus (T=4.70, p<.001)). We found activation from smoking cues versus neutral cues within both the left and right frontal medial orbital regions (T=5.09, p<.001 and T=3.94, p=.001 respectively), which may be unique to adolescents. Non-smokers showed no significant difference in activation between smoking-related cues and neutral cues.
Our finding that smoking cues produced activation in adolescent light smokers in brain regions seen in adult and heavy teen smokers suggests that even at low levels of smoking, adolescents exhibit heightened reactivity to smoking cues. This paper adds to the existing literature suggesting that nicotine dependence may begin with exposure to low levels of nicotine, underscoring the need for early intervention among adolescent smokers.
fMRI; adolescent nicotine addiction; adolescent smoking; brain imaging
More than 94 million Americans have tried marijuana, and it remains the most widely used illicit drug in the nation. Investigations of the cognitive effects of marijuana report alterations in brain function during tasks requiring executive control, including inhibition and decision-making. Endogenous cannabinoids regulate a variety of emotional responses, including anxiety, mood control, and aggression; nevertheless, little is known about smokers’ responses to affective stimuli. The anterior cingulate and amygdala play key roles in the inhibition of impulsive behavior and affective regulation, and studies using PET and fMRI have demonstrated changes within these regions in marijuana smokers. Given alterations in mood and perception often observed in smokers, we hypothesized altered fMRI patterns of response in 15 chronic heavy marijuana smokers relative to 15 non-marijuana smoking control subjects during the viewing of masked happy and fearful faces. Despite no between-group differences on clinical or demographic measures, smokers demonstrated a relative decrease in both anterior cingulate and amygdalar activity during masked affective stimuli compared to controls, who showed relative increases in activation within these regions during the viewing of masked faces. Findings indicate that chronic heavy marijuana smokers demonstrate altered activation of frontal and limbic systems while viewing masked faces, consistent with autoradiographic studies reporting high CB-1 receptor density in these regions. These data suggest differences in affective processing in chronic smokers, even when stimuli are presented below the level of conscious processing, and underscore the likelihood that marijuana smokers process emotional information differently from those who do not smoke, which may result in negative consequences.
Marijuana; fMRI; Masked Affect; Cingulate; Amygdala
Research on emotional perception and learning indicates appetitive cues engage nucleus accumbens (NAc) and medial prefrontal cortex (mPFC), whereas amygdala activity is modulated by the emotional intensity of appetitive and aversive cues. This study sought to determine patterns of functional activation and connectivity among these regions during narrative emotional imagery. Using event-related fMRI, we investigate activation of these structures when participants vividly imagine pleasant, neutral, and unpleasant scenes. Results indicate that pleasant imagery selectively activates NAc and mPFC, whereas amygdala activation was enhanced during both pleasant and unpleasant imagery. NAc and mPFC activity were each correlated with the rated pleasure of the imagined scenes, while amygdala activity was correlated with rated emotional arousal. Functional connectivity of NAc and mPFC was evident throughout imagery, regardless of hedonic content, while correlated activation of the amygdala with NAc and mPFC was specific to imagining pleasant scenes. These findings provide strong evidence that pleasurable text-driven imagery engages a core appetitive circuit, including NAc, mPFC, and the amygdala.
liking; mental imagery; mesocorticolimbic; script-driven imagery; psychophysiological interaction; ventral striatum; ventral medial prefrontal cortex