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Neural correlates of craving and resisting craving for tobacco in nicotine dependent smokers

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Craving is a significant factor which can lead to relapse during smoking quit attempts. Attempts to resist urges to smoke during cue‐elicited craving have been shown to activate regions in the brain associated with decision‐making, anxiety regulation and visual processing. In this study, 32 treatment‐seeking, nicotine‐dependent smokers viewed blocks of smoking and neutral cues alternating with rest periods during magnetic resonance imaging scanning in a 3T Siemens scanner (Siemens AG, Erlangen, Bavaria, Germany). While viewing cues or control images, participants were instructed either to ‘allow yourself to crave’ or ‘resist craving.’ Data were analyzed with FSL 4.1.5, focused on the smoking cues versus neutral cues contrast, using cluster thresholding (Z > 2.3 and corrected cluster threshold of P = 0.05) at the individual and group levels. During the Crave condition, activation was seen on the left anterior cingulated cortex (LACC), medial prefrontal cortex, left middle cingulate gyrus, bilateral posterior cingulated gyrus and bilateral precuneus, areas associated with attention, decision‐making and episodic memory. The LACC and areas of the prefrontal cortex associated with higher executive functioning were activated during the Resist condition. No clear distinctions between group crave and resist analyses as a whole were seen without taking into account specific strategies used to resist the urge to smoke, supporting the idea that craving is associated with some degree of resisting the urge to smoke, and trying to resist is almost always accompanied by some degree of craving. Different strategies for resisting, such as distraction, activated different regions. Understanding the underlying neurobiology of resisting craving to smoke may identify new foci for treatments.
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Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: Stanford University, CA, USA 2: Medical University of South Carolina, SC, USA

Publication date: 2011-10-01

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