Lower gray matter density and functional connectivity in the anterior insula in smokers compared with never smokers

Luke E. Stoeckel, Xiaoqian J. Chai, Jiahe Zhang, Susan Whitfield-Gabrieli, A. Eden Evins

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

27 Scopus citations


Although nicotine addiction is characterized by both structural and functional abnormalities in brain networks involved in salience and cognitive control, few studies have integrated these data to understand how these abnormalities may support addiction. This study aimed to (1) evaluate gray matter density and functional connectivity of the anterior insula in cigarette smokers and never smokers and (2) characterize how differences in these measures were related to smoking behavior. We compared structural magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) (gray matter density via voxel-based morphometry) and seed-based functional connectivity MRI data in 16 minimally deprived smokers and 16 matched never smokers. Compared with controls, smokers had lower gray matter density in left anterior insula extending into inferior frontal and temporal cortex. Gray matter density in this region was inversely correlated with cigarettes smoked per day. Smokers exhibited negative functional connectivity (anti-correlation) between the anterior insula and regions involved in cognitive control (left lPFC) and semantic processing/emotion regulation (lateral temporal cortex), whereas controls exhibited positive connectivity between these regions. There were differences in the anterior insula, a central region in the brain's salience network, when comparing both volumetric and functional connectivity data between cigarette smokers and never smokers. Volumetric data, but not the functional connectivity data, were also associated with an aspect of smoking behavior (daily cigarettes smoked).

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)972-981
Number of pages10
JournalAddiction Biology
Issue number4
StatePublished - Jul 1 2016
Externally publishedYes


  • Executive function
  • functional connectivity
  • nicotine addiction
  • salience
  • voxel-based morphometry

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine (miscellaneous)
  • Pharmacology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


Dive into the research topics of 'Lower gray matter density and functional connectivity in the anterior insula in smokers compared with never smokers'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this