Substance abuse is a fundamentally dynamic disease, characterized by repeated oscillation between craving, drug self-administration, reward, and satiety. To model nicotine addiction as a control system, an MR-compatible nicotine delivery system is needed to elicit cyclical cravings. Using a concentric nebulizer, inserted into one nostril, we delivered each dose – each equivalent to a single cigarette puff – using a syringe pump by nebulizing the nicotine solution using pressurized medical air. A control mechanism permits dual modes: one delivers puffs on a fixed interval programmed by researchers; with the other, subjects press a button to self-administer each nicotine dose. Subjects were therefore able to intuitively ”smoke” the equivalent of a cigarette, one ”puff” at a time. We dosed each ”puff” such that one cigarette would be equal, in nicotine content, to 10 puffs. We tested the viability of this delivery method for studying the brain’s response to nicotine addiction in three steps. First, we established the pharmacokinetics of nicotine delivery, using a dosing scheme designed to gradually achieve saturation, as with a cigarette. Second, we lengthened the time between micro-doses to elicit craving cycles, using both fixed-interval and subject-driven behavior. Finally, we confirmed that the fixed-interval protocol reliably activates brain circuits linked to addiction. Our MR-compatible nasal delivery method enables the measurement of neural circuit responses to drug doses on a single-subject level, allowing the development of data-driven predictive models to quantify individual dysregulations of the reward control circuit causing addiction.
bioRxiv Subject Collection: Neuroscience