Masked smoking-related images modulate brain activity in smokers

Xiaochu Zhang, Xiangchuan Chen, Yongqiang Yu, Delin Sun, Ma Ning, Sheng He, Xiaoping Hu, Daren Zhang

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

20 Scopus citations


The questions of whether and how indiscriminate drug-related stimuli could influence drug- users are important to our understanding of addictive behavior, but the answers are still inconclusive. In the present preliminary functional magnetic resonance imaging study using a backward masking paradigm, the effect of indiscriminate smoking-related stimuli on 10 smokers and 10 nonsmokers was examined. The BOLD response showed a significant reduction (P = 0.001) in the right amygdala of smokers when they viewed but did not perceive masked smoking-related stimuli, while no significant differences were found in the nonsmoker group. More voxels in anterior cingulate cortex were negatively correlated with the amygdala during the masked smoking-related picture condition in smokers but not in nonsmokers, whereas more positively correlated voxels were observed during the masked neutral condition. The BOLD response in drug-users indicates the amygdala responds to drug-related stimuli that are below the perceptual threshold. The functional connectivity data suggest a functional interaction between the amygdala and the anterior cingulate cortex when drug users view 33ms back- masked drug-related stimuli. This observation suggests that the amygdala plays an important role in the indiscriminate drug-related cue process.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)896-907
Number of pages12
JournalHuman Brain Mapping
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 2009


  • Addiction
  • Amygdala
  • Functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI)
  • Smoking-related cue
  • Unawareness


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