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1.  Ventral Striatum/Nucleus Accumbens Activation to Smoking-Related Pictorial Cues in Smokers and Nonsmokers: A Functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging Study 
Biological psychiatry  2005;58(6):488-494.
Background
Converging evidence from several theories of the development of incentive-sensitization to smoking-related environmental stimuli suggests that the ventral striatum plays an important role in the processing of smoking-related cue reactivity.
Methods
Twenty-six healthy right-handed volunteers (14 smokers and 12 nonsmoking controls) underwent functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) during which neutral and smoking-related images were presented. Region of interest analyses were performed within the ventral striatum/nucleus accumbens (VS/NAc) for the contrast between smoking-related (SR) and nonsmoking related neutral (N) cues.
Results
Group activation for SR versus N cues was observed in smokers but not in nonsmokers in medial orbitofrontal cortex, superior frontal gyrus, anterior cingulate cortex, and posterior fusiform gyrus using whole-brain corrected Z thresholds and in the ventral VS/NAc using uncorrected Z-statistics (smokers Z = 3.2). Region of interest analysis of signal change within ventral VS/NAc demonstrated significantly greater activation to SR versus N cues in smokers than controls.
Conclusions
This is the first demonstration of greater VS/NAc activation in addicted smokers than nonsmokers presented with smoking-related cues using fMRI. Smokers, but not controls, demonstrated activation to SR versus N cues in a distributed reward signaling network consistent with cue reactivity studies of other drugs of abuse.
doi:10.1016/j.biopsych.2005.04.028
PMCID: PMC4439461  PMID: 16023086
Nucleus accumbens; smoking; nicotine; tobacco; cue reactivity; fMRI
2.  Effects of Acute Nicotine Abstinence on Cue-elicited Ventral Striatum/Nucleus Accumbens Activation in Female Cigarette Smokers: A Functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging Study 
Brain imaging and behavior  2007;1(3-4):43-57.
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.
doi:10.1007/s11682-007-9004-1
PMCID: PMC2367252  PMID: 18458752
fMRI; Smoking; Tobacco; Cue reactivity; Ventral striatum; Nucleus accumbens

Results 1-2 (2)