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Smoking Reduces Conflict-Related Anterior Cingulate Activity in Abstinent Cigarette Smokers Performing a Stroop Task

Department of Psychiatry and Biobehavioral Sciences, University of California, Los Angeles, CA 90095, USA.
Neuropsychopharmacology: official publication of the American College of Neuropsychopharmacology (Impact Factor: 7.83). 11/2009; 35(3):775-82. DOI: 10.1038/npp.2009.186
Source: PubMed

ABSTRACT Prior research suggests that abrupt initiation of abstinence from cigarette smoking reduces neural cognitive efficiency. When cognitive efficiency is high, processing speed and accuracy are maximized with minimal allocation of cognitive resources. The study presented here tested the effects of resumption of smoking on cognitive response conflict after overnight abstinence from smoking, hypothesizing that smoking would enhance cognitive efficiency. Twenty paid research volunteers who were chronic cigarette smokers abstained from smoking overnight (>12 h) before undergoing fMRI while performing a color-word Stroop task during two separate test sessions: one that did not include smoking before testing and another one that did. Statistical analyses were performed by modeling the Stroop effect (incongruent >congruent) BOLD response within a collection of a priori regions of interest that have consistently been associated with cognitive control. Behavioral assessment alone did not reveal any significant differences in the Stroop effect between the two sessions. BOLD activations, however, indicated that in the right anterior cingulate cortex (ACC), smokers had significantly less task-related activity following smoking (p<0.02). In contrast, the right middle frontal gyrus exhibited significantly greater activity after smoking as compared to the no-smoking session (p<0.003). Exaggerated neural activity in the ACC during nicotine withdrawal may reflect a compensatory mechanism by which cognitive control networks expend excessive energy to support selective attention processes. Resumption of smoking may enhance cognitive control in smokers, involving a reduction in ACC response conflict activity together with improvement in conflict resolution involving the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex.

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    • "On the basis of previous reports of the neuronal underpinnings of smoking addiction (Canterberry et al., 2013; Hanlon et al., 2013; Li et al., 2013; Hartwell et al., 2011; Azizian et al., 2009; Brody et al., 2007; Smolka et al., 2006; Due et al., 2002; Ernst et al., 2001), bilateral ACC, medial pFC, and OFC areas were defined as the anterior ROIs (ROIs1), and bilateral posterior cingulate cortex and precuneus areas were defined as the posterior ROIs (ROIs2; Table 2). The anterior part of the brain (i.e., ROIs1) has been widely reported as a cigarette-craving-related brain region (Lee, Kim, & Kim, 2012; Hartwell et al., 2011; Azizian et al., 2009; Brody et al., 2007; Due et al., 2002) and has been utilized in previous rtfMRI studies on cigarette craving/ resistance (Canterberry et al., 2013; Hanlon et al., 2013; Li et al., 2013). However, the involvement of the posterior part of the brain (i.e., ROIs2) in cigarette craving is unclear (Hartwell et al., 2011; Brody et al., 2007). "
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    • "The experimental task was a modified version of a face viewing task previously shown to increase activation in brain regions underlying emotion processing [26]; see Figure 1. In brief, neutral and negative (angry and fearful) faces [27] were presented in a dynamic (i.e., morphed) fashion. The morphing caused them to appear to change from neutral to negative in the same actor (emotion morph) or from one neutral identity to another neutral identity (identity morph). "
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    • "More recently, Azizian and colleagues demonstrated that smoking reduced conflict-related anterior cingulated activity in abstinent cigarette smokers during performing a stroop task. The study also suggested that exaggerated neural activity in the ACC during nicotine withdrawal may reflect a compensatory mechanism by which cognitive control networks expend excessive energy to support selective attention processes (Azizian et al. 2010). Hong and colleagues reported that restingstate dorsal ACC-striatum functional connectivity may serve as a circuit-level biomarker for nicotine addiction, and the development of new therapeutic agents aiming to enhance the d ACC-striatum functional pathways may be effective for nicotine addiction treatment (Hong et al. 2010). "
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