Brain imaging forecasts response to stop smoking campaigns

By Tauren Dyson

Jan. 7 (UPI) -- A neuroimaging method could help predict what stop smoking campaigns work best to get people to kick the habit, a new study says.

These results could enhance the effectiveness of public outreach campaigns to stop smoking.


New data published Monday in the journal JNeurosci showed that a small group of smokers in New York responded positively to an email sent from the state's health department.

Using neuroimaging, the researchers found that images that stimulated specific parts of the brain -- specifically, the amygdala and ventromedial prefrontal cortex -- also got smokers to click the email, particularly when they would otherwise show low activity in the portion of the brain that regulates emotion.

Combined, these results show that brain imaging may be useful in pinpointing individual and group responses to public campaigns to curb smoking.

Researchers discovered a neural connection between the amygdala, an emotional hub, and the vmPFC, which showed the effect that graphic anti-smoking images had on the brain. Smokers reported that the same images that made them likely to quit also pushed them to seek out more information from the New York State Smokers' Quit Line email.


According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, smoking is the leading cause of preventable disease, causing more than 480,000 deaths in the United States.

The CDC estimates nearly 38 million Americans smoke tobacco products and that more than 16 million Americans lives with a smoking-related disease.

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