Smoking addiction due to brain wiring, study says
A recent study found that smoking addiction may start with bad brain wiring.
Two areas of the brain--the orbitofrontal cortex and the prefrontal cortex--seem to work together to either manage cravings or turn them off, depending on whether or not a person is anticipating access to a cigarette.
Brain scans and smoking videos
Researchers at the University of Southern California used brain scans on 10 moderate-to-heavy smokers while the participants watched different videos: some videos included people smoking and some did not.
Before watching the videos, some of the participants were told they would have access to cigarettes after viewing the videos. Others were told they would have to wait a few hours.
Smokers who had immediate access to cigarettes after the videos reported greater cravings and their brains showed an increase of activity in the orbitofrontal cortex--the part part of the brain that attaches value and meaning with behavior.
Brain manipulation as a cure?
To take things a step further in a different part of the experiment, the researchers blocked off the areas of the brain that associated craving and the awareness that a cigarette would be available in the immediate future. The results showed that by manipulating these parts of the brain, they could reduce patients' cravings.
"This is something that we've all been working on, trying to find the target in the brain that you could hit and cause somebody to stop smoking," said study researcher Antoine Bechara, a neuroscientist at the University of Southern California.
The study is published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.