Thalamic volume and functional connectivity are associated with nicotine dependence severity and craving

Cindy Sumaly Lor, Amelie Haugg, Mengfan Zhang, Letitia Schneider, Marcus Herdener, Boris B. Quednow, Narly Golestani, Frank Scharnowski

Tobacco smoking is associated with deleterious health outcomes. Most smokers want to quit smoking, yet relapse rates are high. Understanding neural differences associated with tobacco use may help generate novel treatment options. Several animal studies have recently highlighted the central role of the thalamus in substance use disorders, but this research focus has been understudied in human smokers. Here, we investigated associations between structural and functional magnetic resonance imaging measures of the thalamus and its subnuclei to distinct smoking characteristics. We acquired anatomical scans of 32 smokers as well as functional resting-state scans before and after a cue-reactivity task. Thalamic functional connectivity was associated with craving and dependence severity, whereas the volume of the thalamus was associated with dependence severity only. Craving, which fluctuates rapidly, was best characterized by differences in brain function, whereas the rather persistent syndrome of dependence severity was associated with both brain structural differences and function. Our study supports the notion that functional versus structural measures tend to be associated with behavioural measures that evolve at faster versus slower temporal scales, respectively. It confirms the importance of the thalamus to understand mechanisms of addiction and highlights it as a potential target for brain-based interventions to support smoking cessation, such as brain stimulation and neurofeedback.

Institut für Psychologie der Kognition, Emotion und Methoden, Forschungsverbund Kognitionswissenschaft, Department für Verhaltens- und Kognitionsbiologie
Externe Organisation(en)
Universitätsspital Zürich
Addiction Biology
ÖFOS 2012
303029 Suchtforschung, 106025 Neurobiologie
ASJC Scopus Sachgebiete
Psychiatry and Mental health, Medicine (miscellaneous), Pharmacology
Link zum Portal