Intra-individual changes in Stroop-related activations linked to cigarette abstinence in adolescent tobacco smokers: Preliminary findings
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BACKGROUND: Adolescence is a crucial time for initiation of tobacco-smoking. Developing more effective treatment interventions for tobacco-smoking in youth is therefore critical to reduce smoking rates in both adolescent and adult populations. Elucidation of the neural mechanisms of successful behavioral change (abstinence) will allow for improvement of therapies based on known brain mechanisms. METHODS: Twenty-one adolescent tobacco-smokers (14-19 years) participated in functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) during performance of a cognitive control (Stroop) task prior to randomization to smoking cessation treatment (trial of combined nicotine replacement therapy/placebo and contingency management for attendance/abstinence; NCT01145001). Fourteen adolescents also participated in fMRI scanning following completion of the six-week trial. fMRI data were analyzed using random-effects models in SPM12. Paired t-tests were used to identify group-level changes (main effect of treatment exposure) in neural functional responses. Regression models were used to identify individual-level changes associated with treatment-outcomes (percent days abstinent, maximum days of consecutive abstinence). RESULTS: Main effects of Stroop task performance (contrast of incongruent versus congruent trials) were seen across a priori ROIs at both pre- and post-treatment (pFWE<0.05). At the group-level, no changes in neural responses were found following treatment. However, intra-individual reductions in Stroop-related activity (within the insula and anterior cingulate) were positively associated with measures of smoking abstinence during treatment (pFWE<0.05). CONCLUSIONS: Abstinence from tobacco during smoking cessation treatment among adolescents is associated with cognitive-control related reductions in neural activity within specific regions (anterior cingulate, insula), suggesting that increases in cognitive efficiency may underlie optimal treatment responses in this population.
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