Resting state functional brain connectivity (rsFC) may be an important neuromarker of smoking behavior. Prior research has shown, among cigarette smokers, that nicotine administration alters rsFC within frontal and parietal cortices involved in executive control, as well as striatal regions that drive reward processing. These changes in rsFC have been associated with reductions in withdrawal symptom severity. We currently have a limited understanding of how rsFC is affected by the use of electronic cigarettes (ecigs), an increasingly popular class of products, the members of which deliver nicotine with varying effectiveness. The current study used fMRI to determine the effects of ecig use on rsFC and withdrawal symptoms. Independent component, dual regression, and permutation analyses were conducted on rsFC collected from ecig users before and after an ecig use episode (n = 9) that occurred after 14 h of nicotine abstinence. Similar to the known effects of nicotine administration, ecig use decreased rsFC of two clusters in the right frontal pole and frontal medial cortex with an attentional control salience network, and decreased rsFC of five clusters in the left thalamus, insula, and brain stem with a reward network encompassing the striatum. Ecig use increased inverse coupling between the prefrontal reward network and the right frontoparietal executive control network. Reductions in craving and difficulty with concentration were correlated with decreases in coupling strength between reward and executive control networks. These preliminary results suggest that the effects of ecig use on rsFC are similar to those seen with nicotine administration in other forms. In order to gain insight into the addictive potential of ecigs, further research is needed to understand the neural influence of ecigs across the range of nicotine delivery within this class of products.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)56-63
Number of pages8
JournalBrain Research Bulletin
StatePublished - Apr 2018

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General Neuroscience


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