The transition into habitual smoking in high-risk adolescents

AIM: Smoking is associated with serious health risks. Many adolescent experimental smokers progress into chronic nicotine dependence, especially high-risk populations such as low educated smokers. Little is known about the transition from experimental use to dependence. According to the preclinical ‘habit formation model’ (HFM), experimental use is goal-directed and driven by positive reinforcing properties of substances abuse, while dependent use is associated with a shift to rigid, habitual substance use. While this model is promising to explain the transition into dependence, it has not been validated for human substance use. I aim to develop a neurocognitive model describing the transition from experimental smoking to nicotine dependence based on the development of smoking behaviour in high-risk adolescents.

I will adopt a prospective, longitudinal functional magnetic resonance imaging design. At baseline and two-year follow-up, participants’ brain activation will be measured in brain systems underlying impulse control, goal-directed behaviour and habit responding as well as smoking-cue reactivity in brain regions involved in positive reinforcement and habit responding.

Findings from this study will have impact on (i) the prevention of escalation of smoking behaviour; (ii) tailoring of smoking cessation in adolescents.

Slide Neurocognitive development model addiction

COLLABORATORS: For this project I will collaborate with Sanne de Wit (VU University) and Karen Ersche (Cambridge University). Furthermore, collaboration with secondary schools is crucial for this project.

FUNDING: This project is funded by a personal NWO Veni grant to Maartje Luijten.