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Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Damage to ‘insula’ in the brain can make people quit smoking

The Current Are you a smoker? What if you woke up one day and forgot to smoke?

The dream of every smoker who is trying to quit is to have the desire to smoke suddenly vanish. Quitting smoking is a common New Year's resolution. We all know it is bad for us, it is getting harder to be a smoker in a non-smoking world and they are expensive too.
But it is so darned hard to quit. Smokers get no sympathy, even from ex-smokers it sometimes seems, who should know exactly how hard it is. Numerous quitting-smoking programs and drugs exist, yet people who know better and want to quit still smoke.
So the recent study in the journal Science came as a lightning bolt. A patient who suffered a stroke that injured a particular area of his brain, quit smoking with apparent ease, even without a conscious effort to quit. He just forgot to smoke, as he put it to researcher Antoine Bechara.

The study came from the University of Southern California's year-old Brain and Creativity Institute, published in the Jan. 26 issue of Science. Authors on the paper were faculty members Antoine Bechara and Hanna Damasio, and graduate students Nasir Naqvi and David Rudrauf. They used information from the University of Iowa brain-damage registry database.No one was even looking at this area of the brain for smoking or other addictions.
The patient had suffered damage to a small area deep in the cerebral cortex called the insula, which is linked to the development of emotional feeling, positive or negative, about physical sensations.

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