Scientists may have found the center of addictions in the brain. The research team found that the insular cortex may be responsible for addictive behaviors after several smokers who got a stroke in that particular region of the brain showed a low interest in smoking after they recovered.
Dr. Amir Abdolahi, lead author of the research and researcher at Philips Research North America, noted that when a stroke occurs in the insular cortex smokers are twice more likely to abandon the vice than their peers who got strokes in other regions of the brain. Cravings and withdrawal symptoms were also fewer in the first group.
Researchers hope that the new findings may help their colleagues find more effective methods for treating addiction. So far, the best drugs used to help people quit smoking target the reward pathways in the brain by blocking dopamine release after a cigarette is smoked.
Although the drugs have some positive results, the risk of relapse remains fairly high. While 30 percent of people were still non-smokers after six months, 70 percent took up smoking again shortly after the treatment. Moreover, nicotine patches and other nicotine substitutes have similar outcomes.
The recent research revealed that the central part of the brain may play a huge role in the development of addictive behaviors such as substance abuse and smoking.
The study, which was published in the medical journals Addiction and Addictive Behaviors, revealed that smokers who had a stroke in that area of the brain were more likely to quit smoking on the short run.
The research team took into account two indicators in their research – whether volunteers resumed smoking after a stroke in the insular cortex and the episodes which involved cravings for cigarettes during their hospital stay.
The findings were based on data on more than 150 patients who had a stroke and were also self-reported as active smokers. The team analyzed their MRI scans to see the exact location where the stroke occurred.
Study participants were divided into two groups – the group that had a stroke in the insular cortex and a group that had a stroke in other areas. Scientists said that they were able to measure the severity of the relapse because many patients had to refrain from smoking during their recovery in a hospital.
Pacients’s mood, anxiety, anger, hunger, and sleep were also monitored because these factors are clear indicators of how well patients were coping with forced abstinence. Researchers found that the first group had fewer cravings and symptoms than those in the second group.
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