It’s all in your head: New research links specific area of brain to nicotine addiction

It’s all in your head: New research links specific area of brain to nicotine addiction

A new study of stroke survivors found the precise location of the stroke was correlated with lower smoking relapse rates.

Smoking continues to be a huge health problem in the United States, but a new study may have isolated exactly where in your brain you become addicted to cigarettes.

As The Dispatch Times reports, new research is suggesting a new area to address to reduce cigarette cravings: the brain’s insular cortex.  Amir Abdolahi, lead researcher of the study, is arguing that the insular cortex may have a “central role” in nicotine addiction.

Smoking is currently believed to be the cause of 1 in 5 American deaths, playing the role of the main reason for preventable illness and deaths–over 480,000 a year–in our society.  Current anti-addiction drugs target the brain’s “reward pathways” by blocking the dopamine released by nictotine.  They have an upt o 70% relapse rate.

In the new study, researchers followed 156 stroke survivors, all of whom were smokers who were forced to quit by their hospital stays.  The study looked at the intensity of the subjects’ nicotine cravings as well as their smoking relapse rates.

Unexpectedly, researchers found that survivors with strokes that damaged the brain’s insular cortex had significantly reduced relapse rates.  Compared to their compatriots with strokes in other parts of their brains, these people were twice as likely to stop smoking for over three months.

Abdolahi says that of course more research is needed but that he feels strongly that “something is going on in this part of the brain that is influencing addiction.”

Stroke survivors may just have to hope the “right part” of their brain is damaged.

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