Deficits in cognitive control processes are a primary characteristic of nicotine addiction. However, while network-based connectivity measures of dysfunction have frequently been observed, empirical evidence of task-based dysfunction in these processes has been inconsistent. Here, in a sample of smokers (n=35) and non-smokers (n=21), a previously validated parametric flanker task is employed to characterize addiction-related alterations in responses to varying (ie, high, intermediate, and low) demands for cognitive control. This approach yields a demand-response curve that aims to characterize potential non-linear responses to increased demand for control, including insensitivities or lags in fully activating the cognitive control network. We further used task-based differences in activation between groups as seeds for resting-state analysis of network dysfunction in an effort to more closely link prior inconsistencies in task-related activation with evidence of impaired network connectivity in smokers. For both smokers and non-smokers, neuroimaging results showed similar increases in activation in brain areas associated with cognitive control. However, reduced activation in right insula was seen only in smokers and only when processing intermediate demand for cognitive control. Further, in smokers, this task-modulated right insula showed weaker functional connectivity with the superior frontal gyrus, a component of the task-positive executive control network. These results demonstrate that the neural instantiation of salience attribution in smokers is both more effortful to fully activate and has more difficulty communicating with the exogenous, task-positive, executive control network. Together, these findings further articulate the cognitive control dysfunction associated with smoking and illustrate a specific brain circuit potentially responsible.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Psychiatry and Mental health