Sunday 23 October 2016

Ex-smokers hard-wired to give up their habit

Ex-smokers are hardwired to give up cigarettes
Ex-smokers are hardwired to give up cigarettes

THE brains of smokers who successfully quit the habit may be hard-wired to make them strong-willed, research has shown.

Certain brain regions are more connected in people who manage to stop smoking compared with those who fail.

The evidence suggests some individuals are better at overriding craving signals from the insula brain region urging them to light up another cigarette.

"The insula is sending messages to other parts of the brain that then make the decision to pick up a cigarette or not," said lead scientist Dr Merideth Addicott, from Duke University in North Carolina.

The researchers analysed the results of brain scans of 85 smokers conducted a month before they attempted to quit.

All stopped smoking initially, but over a period of 10 weeks 41 relapsed. The brain scans of the 44 who succeeded showed they had one thing in common - greater co-ordinated activity between the insula and somatosensory cortex, a part of the brain central to our sense of touch and motor control.

The insula is active when smokers crave cigarettes. Other studies have shown smokers who suffer damage to the insula lose interest in smoking.

"If we can increase connectivity in smokers to look more like those who quit successfully, that would be a place to start. We need to understand what it is about greater connectivity between these regions that increases the odds of success," said Dr Joseph McClernon, also of Duke.

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