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Drug Alcohol Depend. 2015 Oct 1;155:202-7. doi: 10.1016/j.drugalcdep.2015.07.015. Epub 2015 Jul 23.

Cigarette craving is associated with blunted reward processing in nicotine-dependent smokers.

Author information

1
McLean Imaging Center, McLean Hospital, Harvard Medical School, 115 Mill Street, Belmont, MA 02478, USA; Suffolk University, Department of Psychology, 41 Temple Street, Boston, MA 02114, USA. Electronic address: apeechatka@mclean.harvard.edu.
2
McLean Imaging Center, McLean Hospital, Harvard Medical School, 115 Mill Street, Belmont, MA 02478, USA. Electronic address: awhitton@mclean.harvard.edu.
3
McLean Imaging Center, McLean Hospital, Harvard Medical School, 115 Mill Street, Belmont, MA 02478, USA. Electronic address: slfarmer@mclean.harvard.edu.
4
McLean Imaging Center, McLean Hospital, Harvard Medical School, 115 Mill Street, Belmont, MA 02478, USA. Electronic address: dap@mclean.harvard.edu.
5
McLean Imaging Center, McLean Hospital, Harvard Medical School, 115 Mill Street, Belmont, MA 02478, USA. Electronic address: ajanes@mclean.harvard.edu.

Abstract

BACKGROUND:

Dysfunctional reward processing leading to the undervaluation of non-drug rewards is hypothesized to play a crucial role in nicotine dependence. However, it is unclear if blunted reward responsivity and the desire to use nicotine are directly linked after a brief period of abstinence. Such an association would suggest that individuals with reduced reward responsivity may be at increased risk to experience nicotine craving.

METHODS:

Reward function was evaluated with a probabilistic reward task (PRT), which measures reward responsivity to monetary incentives. To identify whether smoking status influenced reward function, PRT performance was compared between non-depressed, nicotine-dependent smokers and non-smokers. Within smokers, correlations were conducted to determine if blunted reward responsivity on the PRT was associated with increased nicotine craving. Time since last nicotine exposure was standardized to 4h for all smokers.

RESULTS:

Smokers and non-smokers did not differ in reward responsivity on the PRT. However, within smokers, a significant negative correlation was found between reward responsivity and intensity of nicotine craving.

CONCLUSIONS:

The current findings show that, among smokers, the intensity of nicotine craving is linked to lower sensitivity to non-drug rewards. This finding is in line with prior theories that suggest reward dysfunction in some clinical populations (e.g., depressive disorders, schizophrenia) may facilitate nicotine use. The current study expands on such theories by indicating that sub-clinical variations in reward function are related to motivation for nicotine use. Identifying smokers who show blunted sensitivity to non-drug rewards may help guide treatments aimed at mitigating the motivation to smoke.

KEYWORDS:

Anhedonia; Craving; Nicotine; Reward; Smoking

PMID:
26233484
PMCID:
PMC4838290
DOI:
10.1016/j.drugalcdep.2015.07.015
[Indexed for MEDLINE]
Free PMC Article

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