Increased interregional functional connectivity of anterior insula is associated with improved smoking cessation outcome

Abstract

Damage to the insular cortex has been shown to disrupt smoking behavior. However, whether smoking cessation outcomes are associated with abnormal functions of insula and its subregions remains unclear. In this study, we investigated the relationship between insular functions (interregional functional connectivity and regional activity) and treatment outcomes of cigarette smoking. Thirty treatment-seeking smokers were recruited into the treatment study and underwent magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scans immediately before and after the treatment. Sixteen participants remained abstinent from smoking (quitters), while 14 relapsed to smoking (relapers). Changes in resting-state functional connectivity and fractional amplitude of low frequency fluctuation (fALFF) across groups and visits were assessed using repeated measures ANCOVA. Significant interaction effects were detected: 1) between the left anterior insula and left precuneus; and 2) between the right anterior insula and left precuneus and medial frontal gyrus. Post-hoc region-of-interest analyses in brain areas showing interaction effects indicated significantly increased functional connectivity after treatment compared with before treatment in quitters but opposite longitudinal changes in relapsers. However, no significant effects in fALFF were observed. These novel findings suggest that increased interregional functional connectivity of the anterior insula is associated with improved smoking cessation outcome: individuals with increased functional connectivity of the anterior insula during the treatment would more likely quit smoking successfully. These insular circuits may serve as therapeutic targets for more efficacious treatment of nicotine addiction.

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Funding

This research was supported by Zhejiang Provincial Natural Science Foundation of China under Grant No. LQ18H180001, Zhejiang Medicine and Health Science and Technology Program under Grant nos.2017KY080 and 2018KY418, National Natural Science Foundation of China under Grant nos. 81,171,310 and 81,701,647. YY was supported by the Intramural Research Program of the National Institute on Drug Abuse, the National Institutes of Health.

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Correspondence to Chao Wang or Minming Zhang.

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Wang, C., Shen, Z., Huang, P. et al. Increased interregional functional connectivity of anterior insula is associated with improved smoking cessation outcome. Brain Imaging and Behavior 14, 408–415 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11682-019-00197-2

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Keywords

  • Anterior insula
  • Resting state functional connectivity
  • Nicotine dependence
  • Smoking cessation