Introduction: Perturbations in neural function provoked by a drug are thought to induce neural adaptations, which, in the absence of the drug, give rise to withdrawal symptoms. Previously published structural data from this study indicated that the progressive development of physical dependence is associated with increasing density of white matter tracts between the anterior cingulum bundle and the precuneus. Methods: Using functional magnetic resonance imaging, we compared 11 smokers after 11 h of abstinence from nicotine and after satiation, with 10 nonsmoking controls, using independent component analysis for brain network comparisons as well as a whole brain resting-state functional connectivity analysis using the anterior cingulate cortex as a seed. Results: Independent component analysis demonstrated increased functional connectivity in brain networks such as the default mode network associated with the withdrawal state in multiple brain regions. In seed-based analysis, smokers in the withdrawal state showed stronger functional connectivity than nonsmoking controls between the anterior cingulate cortex and the precuneus, caudate, putamen, and frontal cortex (P < 0.05). Among smokers, compared to the satiated state, nicotine withdrawal was associated with increased connectivity between the anterior cingulate cortex and the precuneus, insula, orbital frontal gyrus, superior frontal gyrus, posterior cingulate cortex, superior temporal, and inferior temporal lobe (P < 0.02). The intensity of withdrawal-induced craving correlated with the strength of connectivity between the anterior cingulate cortex and the precuneus, insula, caudate, putamen, middle cingulate gyrus, and precentral gyrus (r = 0.60-0.76; P < 0.05). Conclusions: In concordance with our previous report that structural neural connectivity between the anterior cingulate area and the precuneus increased in proportion to the progression of physical dependence, resting-state functional connectivity in this pathway increases during nicotine withdrawal in correlation with the intensity of withdrawal-induced craving. These findings suggest that smoking triggers structural and functional neural adaptations in the brain that support withdrawal-induced craving.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Behavioral Neuroscience