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Smoking withdrawal shifts the spatiotemporal dynamics of neurocognition

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Smoking withdrawal is associated with significant deficits in the ability to initiate and maintain attention for extended periods of time (i.e. sustained attention; SA). However, the effects of smoking abstinence on the temporal dynamics of neurocognition during SA have not been evaluated. Twenty adult smokers underwent functional magnetic resonance imaging scans following smoking as usual and after 24-hours abstinence. During scanning they completed a SA task with two levels of task difficulty, designed to measure both sustained (i.e. over the duration of the task) and transient (i.e. event-related) activation. Smoking abstinence significantly decreased task accuracy regardless of task difficulty. Compared to smoking as usual, abstinence resulted in decreased sustained activation in right inferior and middle frontal gyri but increased transient activation across dispersed cortical areas including precuneus and right superior frontal gyrus. Greater task difficulty was associated with even greater transient activation during abstinence in mostly right hemisphere regions including right inferior frontal gyrus. These findings suggest smoking withdrawal shifts the temporal and spatial dynamics of neurocognition from sustained, right prefrontal activation reflecting proactive cognitive control ( Braver, Gray & Burgess 2009) to more dispersed and transient activation reflecting reactive control.

Keywords: Attention; fMRI; mixed-design; nicotine dependence; prefrontal cortex; smoking

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, Duke University Medical Center, Durham, NC, USA

Publication date: 2010-10-01

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