The role of dopamine in inhibitory control in smokers and non-smokers: A pharmacological fMRI study

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

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

37 Citations (Scopus)


Contemporary theoretical models of substance dependence posit that deficits in inhibitory control play an important role in substance dependence. The neural network underlying inhibitory control and its association with substance dependence have been widely investigated. However, the pharmacology of inhibitory control is still insufficiently clear. The aims of the current study were twofold. First, we investigated the role of dopamine in inhibitory control and associated brain activation. Second, the proposed link between dopamine and impaired inhibitory control in nicotine dependence was investigated by comparing smokers and non-smoking controls. Haloperidol (2 mg), a dopamine D2/D3 receptor antagonist, and placebo were administered to 25 smokers and 25 non-smoking controls in a double-blind randomized cross-over design while performing a Go/NoGo task during fMRI scanning. Haloperidol reduced NoGo accuracy and associated brain activation in the ACC, right SFG and left IFG, showing that optimal dopamine levels are crucial to effectively implement inhibitory control. In addition, smokers showed behavioral deficits on the Go/NoGo task as well as hypoactivity in the left IFG, right MFG and ACC after placebo, supporting the hypothesis of a hypoactive prefrontal system in smokers. Haloperidol had a stronger impact on prefrontal brain activation in non-smoking controls compared to smokers, which is in line with the inverted 'U' curve theory of dopamine and cognitive control. The current findings suggest that altered baseline dopamine levels in addicted individuals may contribute to the often observed reduction in inhibitory control in these populations. (C) 2012 Elsevier B.V. and ECNP. All rights reserved.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1247-1256
Number of pages10
JournalEuropean Neuropsychopharmacology
Issue number10
Publication statusPublished - 2013


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