Brain damage lets smokers 'forget'

Jan. 26, 2007 at 3:00 PM
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LOS ANGELES, Jan. 26 (UPI) -- U.S. researchers found that some smokers with damage to a part of the brain -- the insula -- may have their addiction to nicotine practically eliminated.

"The researchers found that smokers with insula lesions were 136 times more likely to have their addiction to nicotine erased than smokers with other brain injuries," says Dr. Nora Volkow, director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse. "Research that identifies a way to alter the function of this area could have major implications for smokers and addiction treatment in general."

Dr. Antoine Bechara of the University of Southern California and colleagues identified 19 smokers who had experienced some degree of brain damage, resulting in lesions on the insula. Of these, 13 quit smoking. The scientists also identified 50 smokers whose brain injuries did not include damage to the insula. Of these, 19 quit smoking.

The scientists recognized that individuals from both groups -- those with damage to the insula or damage to other brain regions -- were able to quit smoking, according to the study published in the journal Science.

The damage to the insula could lead smokers to feel that their bodies have "forgotten" the urge to smoke, says Volkow.

Topics: Nora Volkow
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