Habenula activity following positive and negative feedback among abstinent cigarette smokers

Flannery JS, Sutherland MT, Riedel MC, Laird AR, Salmeron BJ, Ross TJ, Stein EA, HBM (2016).


The habenula (HB) inhibits dopamine-releasing neurons following the absence of an expected reward [1, 2], possesses a high density of nicotinic acetylcholine receptors (nAChRs) [3], and is linked with reward processing and the aversive effects of nicotine withdrawal and high nicotine doses [3, 4].

While preclinical evidence has demonstrated the HB’s role in nicotine withdrawal [4, 5], the small size of the HB limits assessment of this region in human fMRI studies.

Here, we examined a response-feedback task shown to differentially activate the HB as well as the insula, anterior cingulate cortex (ACC), and ventral striatum (VS) among nonsmoking participants [6]. As an initial step towards characterizing the impact of smoking status on the activity of the HB and these other regions, we aimed to confirm task-related fMRI effects among abstinent smokers.