UMass Chan Medical School Faculty Publications

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Center for Comparative NeuroImaging; Department of Family Medicine and Community Health; Department of Psychiatry

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Other Neuroscience and Neurobiology | Psychiatry | Psychiatry and Psychology | Substance Abuse and Addiction


BACKGROUND: The tobacco withdrawal syndrome indicates the development of neurophysiologic dependence. Clinical evidence indicates that neurophysiologic dependence develops through a set sequence of symptom presentation that can be assessed with a new 3-item survey measure of wanting, craving, and needing tobacco, the Level of Physical Dependence (PD). This study sought to determine if advancing neurophysiologic dependence as measured by the Level of PD correlates with characteristics of white matter structure measured by Fractional Anisotropy (FA).

METHODS: Diffusion-MRI based FA and diffusion tensor imaging probabilistic tractography were used to evaluate 11 smokers and 10 nonsmokers. FA was also examined in relation to two additional measures of dependence severity, the Hooked on Nicotine Checklist (HONC), and the Fagerstrom Test for Nicotine Dependence (FTND).

RESULTS: Among smokers, FA in the left anterior cingulate bundle (ACb) correlated negatively with the Level of PD (r = -0.68, p = 0.02) and HONC scores (r = -0.65, p = 0.03), but the correlation for the FTND did not reach statistical significance (r = -49, p = 0.12). With advancing Levels of PD, the density of streamlines between the ACb and precuneus increased (r = -0.67, p<0.05) and those between the ACb and white matter projecting to the superior-frontal cortex (r = -0.86, p = 0.0006) decreased significantly.

CONCLUSIONS: The correlations between neural structure and both the clinical Level of PD survey measure and the HONC suggest that the Level of PD and the HONC may reflect the microstructural integrity of white matter, as influenced by tobacco abuse. Given that the Level of PD is measuring a sequence of symptoms of neurophysiologic dependence that develops over time, the correlation between the Level of PD and neural structure suggests that these features might represent neuroplastic changes that develop over time to support the development of neurophysiologic dependence.


Smoking, Nicotine addiction, Neurophysiology, Neuroimaging

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Copyright 2013 Huang et al. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.

DOI of Published Version



Huang W, DiFranza JR, Kennedy DN, Zhang N, Ziedonis D, et al. (2013) Progressive Levels of Physical Dependence to Tobacco Coincide with Changes in the Anterior Cingulum Bundle Microstructure. PLoS ONE 8(7): e67837. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0067837. Link to article on publisher's site

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