Original Article | Published:

Nicotine Alters Food–Cue Reactivity via Networks Extending From the Hypothalamus

Neuropsychopharmacology volume 38, pages 23072314 (2013) | Download Citation

Abstract

Obesity and smoking constitute two of the main causes of preventable deaths in the developed countries today. Many smokers motivate consumption as a means to control their body weight because smoking cessation increases the risk to gain weight. Although it is well established that nicotine reduces feeding in animals and that smoking is associated with reduced body weight in quasi-experimental studies of humans, acute nicotine effects are mixed and little is known about the brain networks supporting these effects. Thus, we investigated 26 normal-weighted never-smokers who received either nicotine (2 mg) or placebo gums following a double-blinded randomized cross-over design. We used functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to investigate reactivity to palatable food cues after both overnight fasting and following a standardized caloric intake (75 g oral glucose tolerance test (OGTT)). Participants viewed food or low-level control pictures in a block design and rated their current appetite after each block. Nicotine had a small- to medium-sized effect on subjective appetite and significantly altered food–cue reactivity in a region sensitive to caloric intake that extended from the right hypothalamus to the basal ganglia. During placebo sessions, the OGTT reduced functional coupling of this region with a ‘salience network’ (ie, amygdala, ventromedial prefrontal cortex) in processing of food pictures. Furthermore, nicotine reduced coupling with the nucleus accumbens and the OGTT reduced coupling with an ‘interoceptive network’ (ie, insula, operculum) instead. We conclude that locally restricted acute effects of nicotine in the hypothalamic area have profound effects on food-processing networks.

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Acknowledgements

We thank Lena Krebs, Andrea Kobiella, Oliver Grimm, and Christian Vollmert for their help in data acquisition. This study was supported by the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft, Grants DFG SM80/2-2, SM80/5-1, SM80/5-2, SM80/7-1, and SFB 940.

Author information

Affiliations

  1. Department of Psychiatry and Psychotherapy and Neuroimaging Center, Technische Universität Dresden, Dresden, Germany

    • Nils B Kroemer
    • , Alvaro Guevara
    •  & Michael N Smolka
  2. Escuela de Matemática Universidad de Costa Rica, San José, Costa Rica

    • Alvaro Guevara
  3. Department of Addictive Behavior and Addiction Medicine, Central Institute of Mental Health, University of Heidelberg, Mannheim, Germany

    • Sabine Vollstädt-Klein

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Correspondence to Michael N Smolka.

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DOI

https://doi.org/10.1038/npp.2013.133

Supplementary Information accompanies the paper on the Neuropsychopharmacology website (http://www.nature.com/npp)

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