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Neuropsychopharmacology. 2015 Jun;40(7):1561-8. doi: 10.1038/npp.2015.9. Epub 2015 Jan 8.

Insula-Dorsal Anterior Cingulate Cortex Coupling is Associated with Enhanced Brain Reactivity to Smoking Cues.

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1] McLean Imaging Center, Brain Imaging Center, McLean Hospital, Belmont, MA, USA [2] Department of Psychiatry, Harvard Medical School, Belmont, MA, USA.
McLean Imaging Center, Brain Imaging Center, McLean Hospital, Belmont, MA, USA.


The insula plays a critical role in maintaining nicotine dependence and reactivity to smoking cues. More broadly, the insula and the dorsal anterior cingulate cortex (dACC) are key nodes of the salience network (SN), which integrates internal and extrapersonal information to guide behavior. Thus, insula-dACC interactions may be integral in processing salient information such as smoking cues that facilitate continued nicotine use. We evaluated functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) data from nicotine-dependent participants during rest, and again when they viewed smoking-related images. Greater insula-dACC coupling at rest was significantly correlated with enhanced smoking cue-reactivity in brain areas associated with attention and motor preparation, including the visual cortex, right ventral lateral prefrontal cortex, and the dorsal striatum. In an independent cohort, we found that insula-dACC connectivity was stable over 1-h delay and was not influenced by changes in subjective craving or expired carbon monoxide, suggesting that connectivity strength between these regions may be a trait associated with heightened cue-reactivity. Finally, we also showed that insula reactivity to smoking cues correlates with a rise in cue-reactivity throughout the entire SN, indicating that the insula's role in smoking cue-reactivity is not functionally independent, and may actually represent the engagement of the entire SN. Collectively, these data provide a more network-level understanding of the insula's role in nicotine dependence and shows a relationship between inherent brain organization and smoking cue-reactivity.

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