BackgroundThe insula has a well-established role in nicotine dependence and is a node of the salience network, which integrates internal and external information to guide behavior. Recent findings reveal that internal and external processing occurs in the ventral anterior insula (vAI) and dorsal anterior insula (dAI), respectively. Whether vAI/dAI network connectivity differentially reflects internally generated craving and externally triggered smoking cue reactivity was tested.
MethodsThirty-six male and female nicotine-dependent individuals smoked 1 hour before functional magnetic resonance imaging. Baseline craving was measured, followed by resting-state and smoking cue reactivity scans and then another assessment of craving. Craving and cue reactivity interactions were measured by focusing on specific nodes of the salience network: the vAI/dAI and anterior cingulate cortex.
ResultsResting-state vAI/dAI networks overlapped with the prototypical salience network, yet they possessed distinct patterns, linking the vAI with nodes of the internally focused default mode network and the dAI with nodes of the external, goal-related frontoparietal network. Internally generated baseline craving was associated with enhanced vAI connectivity, whereas rostral anterior cingulate cortex reactivity to external smoking cues was associated with greater dAI connectivity. We also found that cue reactivity in the rostral anterior cingulate cortex was associated with a rise in subjective cue-induced craving, whereas baseline subjective craving did not influence brain cue reactivity.
ConclusionsThese data show that brain reactivity to smoking cues is associated with a subsequent increase in craving. In addition, separate insula networks have a role in an individual's vulnerability to internally related craving and externally triggered cue reactivity, which could guide the development of new, neurobiologically targeted therapies.