THC reduces the anticipatory nucleus accumbens response to reward in subjects with a nicotine addiction

J. M. Jansma, H. H. Van Hell, L. J.M.J. Vanderschuren, M. G. Bossong, G. Jager, R. S. Kahn, N. F. Ramsey

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35 Scopus citations


Recent evidence has implicated the endocannabinoid (eCB) system in nicotine addiction. The eCB system also has an important role in reward mechanisms, and nicotine addiction has been associated with aberrant reward processing. Motivated by this evidence, we tested the hypothesis that eCB modulation of reward processing is altered in subjects with a nicotine addiction (NAD). For this purpose, we compared reward-related activity in NAD with healthy controls (HC) in a pharmacological magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) study using D9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) administration to challenge the eCB system. Eleven HC and 10 NAD participated in a 3-T functional MRI (fMRI) study with a double-blind, cross-over, placebo-controlled design, using a Monetary Incentive Delay (MID) paradigm with three reward levels. Reward activity in the nucleus accumbens (NAcc) and caudate putamen during anticipation and feedback of reward was compared after THC and placebo. fMRI results indicated a significant reduction of reward anticipation activity in the NAcc in NAD after THC administration, which was not present in HC. This is indicated by a significant group by drug by reward interaction. Our data show that THC significantly reduces the NAcc response to monetary reward anticipation in NAD. These results suggest that nicotine addiction is associated with altered eCB modulation of reward processing in the NAcc. This study adds important human data to existing evidence implicating the eCB system in nicotine addiction.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere234
JournalTranslational Psychiatry
StatePublished - 2013
Externally publishedYes


  • Endocannabinoid system
  • Functional MRI
  • Nicotine addiction
  • Nucleus accumbens
  • Reward
  • THC


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