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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2010 Mar 16;107(11):5190-5. doi: 10.1073/pnas.0909184107. Epub 2010 Mar 8.

Kinetics of brain nicotine accumulation in dependent and nondependent smokers assessed with PET and cigarettes containing 11C-nicotine.

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  • 1Department of Radiology, Duke University Medical Center, Center for Nicotine and Smoking Cessation Research, Durham, NC 27705, USA. rose0003@mc.duke.edu

Abstract

Tobacco smoking is a chronic, relapsing disorder that constitutes one of the primary preventable causes of death in developed countries. Two of the popular hypotheses to explain the development and maintenance of strong nicotine dependence in cigarette smokers posit (i) a rapid brain nicotine accumulation during cigarette smoking and/or (ii) puff-associated spikes in brain nicotine concentration. To address these hypotheses, we investigated the dynamics of nicotine accumulation in the smoker's brain during actual cigarette smoking using PET with 3-s temporal resolution and (11)C-nicotine loaded into cigarettes. The results of the study, performed in 13 dependent smokers (DS) and 10 nondependent smokers (NDS), suggest that puff-associated spikes in the brain nicotine concentration do not occur during habitual cigarette smoking. Despite the presence of a puff-associated oscillation in the rate of nicotine accumulation, brain nicotine concentration gradually increases during cigarette smoking. The results further suggest that DS have a slower process of brain nicotine accumulation than NDS because they have slower nicotine washout from the lungs and that DS have a tendency to compensate for their slower rate of brain nicotine accumulation compared with NDS by inhaling a larger volume of smoke. For these reasons, smokers' dependence on cigarette smoking, or the resistance of NDS to becoming dependent, cannot be explained solely by a faster brain nicotine accumulation.

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