Brain Activation Associated with Attentional Bias in Smokers is Modulated by a Dopamine Antagonist

Maartje Luijten, DJ Veltman, R Hester, Marion Smits, L (Lolke) Pepplinkhuizen, Ingmar Franken

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Attentional bias in substance-dependent individuals is the tendency to automatically direct the attention to substance-related cues in the environment. Attentional bias is known to be associated with clinical measures such as relapse or successful quitting in smokers. It has been suggested that attentional bias emerges as a consequence of dopaminergic activity evoked by substance-related cues. The current functional magnetic resonance imaging study employed a dopaminergic challenge in order to test whether brain activation associated with attentional bias in smokers could be modulated by a dopamine antagonist. A total of 25 smokers were compared with 24 controls. Participants were scanned twice while performing a pictorial attentional bias task. Haloperidol (2 mg), a selective D2/D3 dopamine antagonist, or placebo was orally administered 4 h before each scanning session in a double-blind randomized cross-over design. Imaging analyses were performed in a priori selected regions of interest. Results showed that smokers had enhanced brain activation compared with controls in the dorsal anterior cingulate cortex (dACC), right dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (r-DLPFC), and left superior parietal lobe (I-SPL) after placebo. Group x medication interactions were found in the dACC and r-DLPFC, with no differences between groups in these regions after haloperidol. The current findings suggest that a pharmacologically induced reduction in dopamine normalizes brain activation associated with attentional bias in the dACC and DLPFC in smokers, probably because salience of these cues is no longer detected when dopamine activity is reduced. Neuropsychopharmacology (2012) 37, 2772-2779; doi:10.1038/npp.2012.143; published online 1 August 2012
Original languageUndefined/Unknown
Pages (from-to)2772-2779
Number of pages8
Issue number13
Publication statusPublished - 2012

Research programs

  • EMC NIHES-03-30-01
  • EMC NIHES-04-55-01

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