NEW YORK, Jan. 26 (UPI) -- U.S. scientists studying smokers with brain injuries have identified an area of the brain that may be responsible for addictive behavior.
The study, reported in the journal Science, found that smokers who suffered damage to their insulas -- an area of the brain near the ear -- easily quit smoking.
"This is the first time we've shown anything like this, that damage to a specific brain area could remove the problem of addiction entirely," Dr. Nora Volkow, director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse, told The New York Times. "It's absolutely mind-boggling.
In the past, brain research on addiction has focused on regions the cortex, the Times reported.
In the study, 32 former smokers who suffered brain injuries reported how hard it was to quit and whether they had cravings to smoke after quitting. The 16 who easily quit smoking and lost the craving to smoke entirely were more likely to have an insula injury, The Times said.
The researchers were from the University of Iowa and the University of Southern California.