Increased ventro-medial prefrontal activations in schizophrenia smokers during cigarette cravings

Stéphane Potvin, Ovidiu Lungu, Olivier Lipp, Pierre Lalonde, Vessela Zaharieva, Emmanuel Stip, Jean Pierre Melun, Adrianna Mendrek

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

18 Citations (Scopus)


Background: Highly prevalent in schizophrenia, tobacco smoking substantially increases the risk of cardiac-related death. Compared to the general population, tobacco smoking cessation rates are lower in schizophrenia. Unfortunately, the reasons for these low cessation rates remain poorly understood. Recently, it has been shown that tobacco cravings are increased in schizophrenia smokers compared to smokers with no comorbid psychiatric disorder. In view of these results, we sought to examine - for the first time - the neurophysiologic responses elicited by cigarette cues in schizophrenia smokers. We hypothesized that cigarettes cues would elicit increased activations in brain regions involved in drug cravings in schizophrenia smokers relative to control smokers. Methods: Smokers with (n = 18) and without (n = 24) schizophrenia (DSM-IV criteria) were scanned using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) while viewing appetitive cigarette images. Results: Schizophrenia smokers and smokers with no psychiatric comorbidity did not differ in subjective cravings in response to appetitive smoking cues. However, in schizophrenia smokers relative to control smokers, we found that appetitive cigarette cues triggered increased activations of the bilateral ventro-medial prefrontal cortex, a core region of the brain reward system. Moreover, a negative correlation was observed between cigarette cravings and activations of the right ventro-medial prefrontal cortex in schizophrenia smokers. Discussion: The current results highlight a key role of the brain reward system in cigarette craving in schizophrenia, and suggest that the neurophysiologic mechanisms involved in the regulation of cue-induced cigarette craving are impaired in this population.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)30-36
Number of pages7
JournalSchizophrenia Research
Issue number1-2
Publication statusPublished - May 1 2016
Externally publishedYes


  • Brain reward system
  • Cigarette
  • Cravings
  • Functional magnetic resonance imaging
  • Schizophrenia

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychiatry and Mental health
  • Biological Psychiatry


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