Self-efficacy modulates the neural correlates of craving in male smokers and ex-smokers: an fMRI study

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The regulation of cue-induced craving for cigarettes is a key factor in smoking cessation. Outcomes of smoking cessation have been linked to self-efficacy, faith in one's own ability, in smokers. However, no study has examined the neural basis of self-efficacy during the control of craving. We examined whether self-efficacy can affect the neural response to smoking cues in smokers and ex-smokers using functional magnetic resonance imaging. During scanning, participants were instructed (1) to view smoking-related images passively, (2) to view the smoking-related images with a strategy focused on self-efficacy to control cue-induced craving or (3) to view neutral images. In smokers, the self-efficacy strategy significantly reduced self-reported craving. This strategy was related to increased activation in the rostral medial prefrontal cortex (rmPFC) and the pregenual anterior cingulate cortex in smokers compared with ex-smokers. Furthermore, smokers showed increased effective connectivity between rmPFC and hippocampus and between pregenual anterior cingulate cortex and parahippocampus gyrus when employing the self-efficacy strategy compared with ex-smokers. The magnitude of the rmPFC–hippocampus connectivity was positively correlated with self-reported self-efficacy. Our findings suggest that in smokers, self-efficacy is related to activation and connectivity in brain regions involved in regulating craving and self-assessment. The current study provides evidence for understanding the vunderlying cognitive and neurobiological mechanisms involved in the control of craving to smoke cigarettes.

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