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June 29, 2005

Brain Scan Study of Smokers Reveals Signature of Craving

Topics: Health Issues

Not all smokers are alike when it comes to cravings, and a new study conducted by researchers at Duke University Medical Center suggests the difference may lie in their brains' sensitivity to drug cues. The researchers found that smokers who report a greater urge to smoke after a period of abstinence also exhibit stronger brain activity after viewing smoking-related images, such as others smoking or a pack of cigarettes.

Smokers who noted fewer cravings showed stable brain responses to the same drug cues, despite hours of deprivation.

The findings suggest important differences among smokers in brain responses that underlie the smoking habit, the researchers said. What's more, they added, such brain scans may yield diagnostic tests for predicting which smokers will benefit most from particular quitting methods.

(...) "Smokers' responses to drug cues are important in maintaining the smoking habit and also serve as strong triggers to return to smoking for those who have quit," McClernon added. "As we begin to understand the underlying brain processes, we may discover new methods for manipulating those responses to better help smokers quit."

(...) While scientists have thought that nicotine is the primary agent responsible for cigarette addiction, recent evidence suggests that conditioned responses to sensory cues also play an important role, McClernon said. Brain imaging studies of smokers have found increases in brain activity in response to smoking-related images in areas associated with attention, motivation and reward. However, those studies examined smokers only after a period of overnight deprivation from smoking.

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Posted by Hyscience at June 29, 2005 12:00 AM



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