The association of amygdala-insula functional connectivity and adolescent e-cigarette use via sleep problems and depressive symptoms

Sutherland BD, Viera Perez PM, Crooks KE, Flannery JS, Hill-Bowen LD, Riedel MC, Laird AR, Trucco EM, Sutherland MT, Addict Behav 135 :107458 (2022).


BACKGROUND: Adolescent electronic cigarette (e-cigarette) use remains high. Elucidating contributing factors may enhance prevention strategies. Neurobiologically, amygdala-insula resting-state functional connectivity (rsFC) has been linked with aspects of sleep, affect, and substance use (SU). As such, we hypothesized that amygdala’s rsFC with the insula would be associated with e-cigarette use via sleep problems and/or depression levels.

METHODS: An adolescent sample (N = 146) completed a rs-fMRI scan at time 1 and self-reports at time 2 ( approximately 15 months later). Given consistent associations between mental health outcomes and the rsFC of the laterobasal amygdala (lbAMY) with the anterior insula, we utilized a seed region (lbAMY) to region of interest (ROI) analysis approach to characterize brain-behavior relationships. Two serial mediation models tested the interrelations between amygdala’s rsFC with distinct anterior insula subregions (i.e., ventral insula [vI], dorsal insula [dI]), sleep problems, depression levels, and days of e-cigarette use.

RESULTS: An indirect effect was observed when considering the lbAMY’s rsFC with the vI. Greater rsFC predicted more sleep problems, more sleep problems were linked with greater depressive symptoms, and greater depressive symptoms were associated with more e-cigarette use (indirect effect = 0.08, CI [0.01,0.21]). Indicative of a neurobiological dissociation, a similar indirect effect linking these variables was not observed when considering the lbAMY’s rsFC with the dI (indirect effect = 0.03, CI [-0.001,0.10]).

CONCLUSIONS: These outcomes highlight functional interactions between the amygdala and insula as a neurobiological contributor to sleep problems, depressive symptoms, and ultimately SU thereby suggesting potential intervention points to reduce teen e-cigarette use.