Abstract: Introduction: Research on cigarette smokers suggests cognitive and behavioral impairments.
However, much remains unclear how the functional neurobiology of smokers is influenced by
nicotine state. Therefore, we sought to determine which state, be it acute nicotine abstinence or
satiety, would yield the most robust differences compared with nonsmokers when assessing
neurobiological markers of nicotine dependence.
Methods: Smokers (N = 15) and sociodemographically matched nonsmokers (N = 15) were
scanned twice using a repeated-measures design. Smokers were scanned after a 24-hour nicotine
abstinence and immediately after smoking their usual brand cigarette. The neuroimaging battery
included a stop-signal task of response inhibition and pseudocontinuous arterial spin labeling to
measure cerebral blood flow (CBF). Whole-brain voxel-wise analyses of covariance were carried
out on stop success and stop fail Stop-Signal Task contrasts and CBF maps to assess differences
among nonsmokers, abstinent smokers, and satiated smokers. Cluster correction was performed
using AFNI’s 3dClustSim to achieve a significance of p < .05.
Results: Smokers exhibited higher brain activation in bilateral inferior frontal gyrus, a brain region
known to be involved in inhibitory control, during successful response inhibitions relative to nonsmokers.
This effect was significantly higher during nicotine abstinence relative to satiety. Smokers
also exhibited lower CBF in the bilateral inferior frontal gyrus than nonsmokers. These hypoperfusions
were not different between abstinence and satiety.
Conclusions: These findings converge on alterations in smokers in prefrontal circuits known to be
critical for inhibitory control. These effects are present, even when smokers are satiated, but the
neural activity required to achieve performance equal to controls is increased when smokers are
in acute abstinence.
Implications: Our multimodal neuroimaging study gives neurobiological insights into the cognitive
demands of maintaining abstinence and suggests targets for assessing the efficacy of therapeutic