Investigating the association between smoking, environmental tobacco smoke exposure and reward‐related brain activity in adolescent experimental smokers

Joyce Dieleman, Guillaume Sescousse, Marloes Kleinjan, Roy Otten, Maartje Luijten

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Abstract

Reduced anticipatory reward-related activity, especially in the ventral striatum (VS), may underly adolescent vulnerability to develop nicotine dependence. It remains unclear whether nicotine uptake caused by environmental tobacco smoke (ETS) exposure, known to be associated with future smoking, might prompt similar changes in the brain's reward system, rendering adolescents vulnerable for development of nicotine dependence. To address this question, we tested whether current ETS exposure and monthly smoking are associated with VS hypoactivity for non-drug rewards in experimental smoking adolescents. One-hundred adolescents performed a monetary incentive delay task while brain activity was measured using fMRI. To test the hypothesized relationship, we used a variety of approaches: (1) a whole-brain voxel-wise approach, (2) an region-of-interest approach in the VS using frequentist and Bayesian statistics and (3) a small volume voxel-wise approach across the complete striatum. The results converged in revealing no significant relationships between monthly smoking, ETS exposure and reward-related brain activation across the brain or in the (ventral) striatum specifically. However, Bayesian statistics showed only anecdotal evidence for the null hypothesis in the VS, providing limited insight into the (non-)existence of the hypothesized relationship. Based on these results, we speculate that blunted VS reward-related activity might only occur after relatively high levels of exposure or might be associated with more long term effects of smoking. Future studies would benefit from even larger sample sizes to reliably distinguish between the null and alternative models, as well as more objective measures of (environmental) smoking via using devices such as silicone wristbands.
Original languageEnglish
Article numbere13070
Pages (from-to)1-11
JournalAddiction Biology
Volume27
Issue number1
Early online dateJul 2021
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2021

Keywords

  • Mid
  • VS activity
  • environmental tobacco smoke (ETS) exposure
  • fMRI
  • Monthly smoking
  • Reward

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