Ventral striatal blood flow is altered by acute nicotine but not withdrawal from nicotine

Jody Tanabe, Thomas Crowley, Kent Hutchison, David Miller, Glyn Johnson, Yiping P. Du, Gary Zerbe, Robert Freedman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

23 Citations (Scopus)


Neural mechanisms underlying the reinforcing effects of nicotine and other drugs have been widely studied and are known to involve the ventral striatum, which is part of the mesocorticolimbic dopamine system. In contrast, mechanisms of nicotine withdrawal have received less attention although subjective withdrawal likely contributes to the difficulty of quitting. The goal of this study was to determine if nicotine withdrawal was associated with alterations of cerebral blood flow (CBF) in ventral striatum. Twelve smokers, moderately dependent on nicotine, underwent MR dynamic susceptibility contrast (DSC) imaging at baseline, after overnight withdrawal from nicotine, and after nicotine replacement. DSC images were used to calculate CBF in three regions of interest: ventral striatum, thalamus, and medial frontal cortex. Subjective withdrawal symptoms were measured at each time point. In spite of significant subjective withdrawal symptoms, there was no main effect of withdrawal on CBF in the three regions. However, there was a significant correlation between the increase in withdrawal symptoms and a reduction in thalamic CBF. In contrast to withdrawal, nicotine replacement significantly increased CBF in ventral striatum. Our findings are consistent with the known role of ventral striatum in drug reward. The lack of a main effect on withdrawal, but correlation of thalamic blood flow with withdrawal symptoms suggests that more complex mechanisms mediate the subjective features of the withdrawal state.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)627-633
Number of pages6
Issue number3
Early online date25 Apr 2007
Publication statusPublished - 2008


  • 0 (Chewing Gum)
  • 0 (Nicotinic Agonists)
  • 54-11-5 (Nicotine)
  • Adult Algorithms Blood Pressure
  • Drug effects Cerebrovascular Circulation
  • Drug effects Chewing Gum Female Heart Rate
  • Drug effects Humans Image Processing
  • Computer-Assisted Magnetic Resonance Imaging Male Neostriatum
  • Blood supply
  • Drug effects Nicotine
  • Administration & dosage
  • Adverse effects
  • Pharmacology Questionnaires Sex Characteristics Smoking
  • Physiopathology Substance Withdrawal Syndrome
  • Physiopathology Thalamus
  • Drug effects

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