A National Research Priority Program of the Logo DFG Deutsche Forschungsgesellschaft

An improved understanding of the central nervous effects of nicotine would be highly desirable from a medical as well as an economic point of view. The priority program "Nicotine: Molecular and Physiological Effects in the Central Nervous System (CNS)" has established a network comprising basic and clinical research to address questions about:

  • molecular genetic mechanisms involved in human nicotine dependence including mechanisms of genetic-environmental interactions
  • clinical phenotyping of large multicenter samples in the general population as well as in neuropsychiatric patients including withdrawal-related changes and relapse risk factors
  • functional analysis of physiological effects of nicotine and nicotine withdrawal on the brain based on neuroimaging, electrophysiologic and endocrinological analysis

The priority program encompasses 24 subprojects and includes projects on animal models for the identification of genetic risk factors, large multicenter database projects with standardized data-acquisition in the general population and relevant clinical populations, statistical projects developing methods to handle complex biological and disease trajectory data as well as neuroimaging and physiological projects studying humans and animal models.

Since 07/2019 the project is again funded within the framework of the newly established Collaborative Research Center, Sonderforschungsbereich-Transregio (SFB/TRR 265):

Losing and Regaining Control over Drug Intake: From Trajectories to Mechanisms to Interventions: http://www.trr265.de/. Duration of expected funding until 2031.

Project B05: Prefrontal control of emotion regulation and alternative reward in tobacco use disorder

Dysfunction of the prefrontal cortex and associated impairment of cognitive control contributes to the development, persistence, and severity of substance use disorder (SUD). Difficulties in prefrontally mediated emotion regulation (ER) have been linked to negative emotionality in SUD. ln this project, we will systematically investigate prefrontal dysfunction and ER in tobacco use disorder (TUD). To do so, we will build on the large German National Cohort Nicotine study (CNS) (N = 2396) from the earlier DFG priority program SPP1226. Firstly, we will investigate the outcome of subjects with TUD by conducting a 10-year-follow-up of the cohort via online questionnaires. Taking a hypothesis-driven approach, we will test whether distinct parameters of prefrontal function and habitual ER predict 10-year TUD outcome and how prediction is modified by the use of alternative rewards. ln addition, we will apply hypothesis-free multivariate analysis strategies using machine learning algorithms employing the rich longitudinal data structure of the cohort. ln the second part of this project, we will experimentally investigate neural circuits associated with mechanisms of emotion regulation of negative emotions, as well as of drug and alternative rewards in a cohort subpopulation (N = 120). We will specifically test the question of whether prefrontal function during emotion regulation is predictive of nicotine craving during abstinence.

For further information on the program, please contact the program´s scientific coordinator.