Clarifying the neural basis for incentive salience of tobacco cues in smokers Academic Article uri icon

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  • In functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) studies, smoking cues have been found to elicit increases in brain activity in regions associated with processing rewarding and emotional stimuli. However, most smoking cue studies to date have reported effects relative to neutral control stimuli with no incentive properties, making it unclear whether the observed activation pertains to value in general or the value of cigarettes in particular. The current fMRI study sought to clarify the neural activity reflecting tobacco-specific incentive value versus domain-general incentive value by examining smoking cues, neutral cues, and a third set of cues, monetary cues, which served as an active control condition. Participants were 42 male daily smokers. Compared to neutral cues, significantly greater activation was found in the left ventral striatum in response to tobacco and money cues. Monetary cues also elicited significantly increased activation in the right inferior frontal gyrus and cuneus compared to the other two cue types. Overall, the results suggest that the salience of monetary cues was the highest and, as a result, might have reduced the incentive salience of tobacco cues.


  • Gray, Joshua C
  • Amlung, Michael
  • Acker, John
  • Sweet, Lawrence H
  • Brown, Courtney L
  • MacKillop, James

publication date

  • September 2014