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Synapse. 2009 Dec;63(12):1089-99. doi: 10.1002/syn.20688.

GABAA-benzodiazepine receptor availability in smokers and nonsmokers: relationship to subsyndromal anxiety and depression.

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  • 1Department of Psychiatry, Yale University School of Medicine, Veteran's Affairs Connecticut Healthcare System (VACHS), 116A6 West Haven, Connecticut 06516, USA. irina.esterlis@yale.edu

Abstract

Many smokers experience subsyndromal anxiety symptoms while smoking and during acute abstinence, which may contribute to relapse. We hypothesized that cortical gamma aminobutyric acid(A)-benzodiazepine receptor (GABA(A)-BZR) availability in smokers and nonsmokers might be related to the expression of subsyndromal anxiety, depressive, and pain symptoms. Cortical GABA(A)-BZRs were imaged in 15 smokers (8 men and 7 women), and 15 healthy age and sex-matched nonsmokers, and 4 abstinent tobacco smokers (3 men; 1 woman) using [(123)I]iomazenil and single photon emission computed tomography (SPECT). Anxiety and depressive symptoms were measured using the Spielberger's State-Trait Anxiety Index (STAI) and the Center for Epidemiology Scale for Depressive Symptoms (CES-D). The cold pressor task was administered to assess pain tolerance and sensitivity. The relationship between cortical GABA(A)-BZR availability, smoking status, and subsyndromal depression and anxiety symptoms, as well as pain tolerance and sensitivity, were evaluated. Surprisingly, there were no statistically significant differences in overall GABA(A)-BZR availability between smokers and nonsmokers or between active and abstinent smokers; however, cortical GABA(A)-BZR availability negatively correlated with subsyndromal state anxiety symptoms in nonsmokers but not in smokers. In nonsmokers, the correlation was seen across many brain areas with state anxiety [parietal (r = -0.47, P = 0.03), frontal (r = -0.46, P = 0.03), anterior cingulate (r = -0.47, P = 0.04), temporal (r = -0.47, P = 0.03), occipital (r = -0.43, P = 0.05) cortices, and cerebellum (r = -0.46, P = 0.04)], trait anxiety [parietal (r = -0.72, P = 0.02), frontal (r = -0.72, P = 0.02), and occipital (r = -0.65, P = 0.04) cortices] and depressive symptoms [parietal (r = -0.68; P = 0.02), frontal (r = -0.65; P = 0.03), anterior cingulate (r = -0.61; P = 0.04), and temporal (r = -0.66; P = 0.02) cortices]. The finding that a similar relationship between GABA(A)-BZR availability and anxiety symptoms was not observed in smokers suggests that there is a difference in GABA(A)-BZR function, but not number, in smokers. Thus, while subsyndromal anxiety and depressive symptoms in nonsmokers may be determined in part by GABA(A)-BZR availability, smoking disrupts this relationship. Aberrant regulation of GABA(A)-BZR function in vulnerable smokers may explain why some smokers experience subsyndromal anxiety and depression.

(c) 2009 Wiley-Liss, Inc.

PMID:
19642218
[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
PMCID:
PMC2778224
Free PMC Article
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