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Curr Top Behav Neurosci. 2015;24:1-17. doi: 10.1007/978-3-319-13482-6_1.

Imaging Tobacco Smoking with PET and SPECT.

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  • 1Department of Psychiatry, Yale University School of Medicine, 2 Church Street South, Suite 511, New Haven, CT, 06519, USA,


Receptor imaging, including positron emission computed tomography (PET) and single photon emission computed tomography (SPECT), provides a way to measure chemicals of interest, such as receptors, and neurotransmitter fluctuations, in the living human brain. Imaging the neurochemical mechanisms involved in the maintenance and recovery from tobacco smoking has provided insights into critical smoking related brain adaptations. Nicotine, the primary addictive chemical in tobacco smoke, enters the brain, activates beta2-nicotinic acetylcholine receptors (β2*-nAChRs) and, like most drugs of abuse, elicits dopamine (DA) release in the ventral striatum. Both β2*-nAChRs and DA signaling are critical neurosubstrates underlying tobacco smoking behaviors and dependence and have been studied extensively with PET and SPECT brain imaging. We review the imaging literature on these topics and describe how brain imaging has helped inform the treatment of tobacco smoking.

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