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Damage to Specific Part of the Brain May Make Smokers 'Forget' to Smoke

Armen Hareyan's picture

"Forgetting" to Smoke

Preliminary research supported by the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), a component of the National Institutes of Health, has found that some smokers with damage to a part of the brain called the insula may have their addiction to nicotine practically eliminated. The study is published in the January 26, 2007 issue of the journal Science.

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"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 NIDA Director Dr. Nora Volkow. "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 his 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