The Addiction Circuit

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Scientists recently gained more insight into cigarette smoking addiction after studying the brains of stroke patients, New Scientist reported.

A research team analyzed the brain scans of 34 people who suddenly lost their nicotine cravings following a stroke or brain damage from a physical injury.

They then compared these scans with those of 69 patients who continued smoking even after a brain injury.

The team wrote in their paper that the ex-smokers experienced damage in one of these three areas in the brain: the dorsal cingulate, the lateral prefrontal cortex or the insula.

But this change of habit also occurred in patients that had damage to other regions of the brain with strong connections to the three areas – which scientists labeled as an addiction circuit.

Researchers saw that damage in this circuit was also linked to a lower likelihood of alcohol addiction after studying the scans of a separate group of 186 people with brain injuries.

However, they noted that the quitters didn’t have any injury to the medial prefrontal cortex, which is located in the center of the forehead and is known to inhibit activity in the other three brain areas.

The research might help scientists utilize brain stimulation devices to assist patients to quit smoking, drinking, and other drugs.

One such device, which uses a technique called transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS), has been approved in the US to help people quit smoking.

The authors believe the findings can help enhance the effects of TMS and help many more people become ex-smokers.

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