The Neuroeconomics of Tobacco Demand: An Initial Investigation of the Neural Correlates of Cigarette Cost-Benefit Decision Making in Male Smokers
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How the brain processes cigarette cost-benefit decision making remains largely unknown. Using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), this study investigated the neural correlates of decisions for cigarettes (0-10 cigarettes) at varying levels of price during a Cigarette Purchase Task (CPT) in male regular smokers (N = 35). Differential neural activity was examined between choices classified as inelastic, elastic, and suppressed demand, operationalized as consumption unaffected by cost, partially suppressed by cost, and entirely suppressed by cost, respectively. Decisions reflecting elastic demand, putatively the most effortful decisions, elicited greater activation in regions associated with inhibition and planning (e.g., middle frontal gyrus and inferior frontal gyrus), craving and interoceptive processing (anterior insula), and conflict monitoring (e.g., anterior cingulate cortex). Exploratory examination in a harmonized dataset of both cigarette and alcohol demand (N = 59) suggested common neural activation patterns across commodities, particularly in the anterior insula, caudate, anterior cingulate, medial frontal gyrus, and dorsolateral prefrontal cortex. Collectively, these findings provide initial validation of a CPT fMRI paradigm; reveal the interplay of brain regions associated with executive functioning, incentive salience, and interoceptive processing in cigarette decision making; and add to the literature implicating the insula as a key brain region in addiction.
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