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The dopamine D2 receptor mediates approach-avoidance tendencies in smokers

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Armin Zlomuzica, Alla Machulska, Susanna Roberts, Michael von Glischinski, Mike Rinck, Kathryn J. Lester, Thalia C. Eley, Jürgen Margraf

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-8
Number of pages8
JournalEuropean Archives Of Psychiatry And Clinical Neuroscience
Early online date31 Mar 2017
Accepted/In press25 Mar 2017
E-pub ahead of print31 Mar 2017


King's Authors


Dopamine D2 receptors (DRD2) have been strongly implicated in reward processing of natural stimuli and drugs. Using the approach-avoidance task (AAT), we recently demonstrated that smokers show an increased approach-bias toward smoking-related cues but not toward naturally rewarding stimuli. Here, we examined the contribution of the DRD2 Taq1B polymorphism to smokers’ and non-smokers’ responsivity toward smoking versus naturally rewarding stimuli in the AAT. Smokers carrying the minor B1 allele of the DRD2 Taq1B polymorphism showed reduced approach behavior for food-related pictures compared to non-smokers with the same allele. In the group of smokers, a higher approach-bias toward smoking-related compared to food-related pictures was found in carriers of the B1 allele. This pattern was not evident in smokers homozygous for the B2 allele. In addition, smokers with the B1 allele reported fewer attempts to quit smoking relative to smokers homozygous for the B2 allele. This is the first study demonstrating that behavioral shifts in response to smoking relative to natural rewards in smokers are mediated by the DRD2 Taq1B polymorphism. Our results indicate a reduced natural-reward brain reactivity in smokers with a genetically determined decrease in dopaminergic activity (i.e., reduction of DRD2 availability). It remains to be determined whether this pattern might be related to a different outcome after psychological cessation interventions, i.e., AAT modification paradigms, in smokers.

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