A new paper has revealed that smokers who’ve had a stoke and suffered damage in the insular cortex were much more likely to quit the unhealthy habit, compared to smokers who’ve had a stoke in any other region of the brain.
What’s more, subjects who’ve had a stoke in this region also exhibited fewer symptoms of withdrawal than the subjects who’ve had a stoke in any other region of the brain.
The finding has led field experts to believe that the insular cortex could help them learn of new ways to treat nicotine addiction. Amir Abdolahi, lead author and clinical research scientist from Philips Research North America, gave a statement saying that “These findings indicate that the insular cortex may play a central role in addiction”.
He went on to add that “When this part of the brain is damaged during stroke, smokers are about twice as likely to stop smoking and their craving and withdrawal symptoms are far less severe”.
Researchers from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) inform that cigarette smoking is the main cause of preventable death and disease in the United States. It takes 480.000 lives on a yearly basis. While the number of smokers has dropped in recent years (it used to be 21 in every 100 American adults in 2005, and became 18 in every 100 American adults in 2013), cigarette smoking is still accountable for the deaths of every 1 in 5 individuals.
Many smokers who’ve reported having the desire to quit have also said that they found it very difficult. Health experts are currently helping the process by prescribing medication, as well as nicotine patches and nicotine gum. The primary objective is to disrupt the reward pathways that the smoker brain associates with nicotine.
Unfortunately some patients prove to be more responsive than others, and the majority of them end up relapsing sooner or later. The overall rate of success is around 30 percent (30%), after six (6) months of treatment.
Previous studies have indicated that the insular cortex may play a major role in the cognitive processes known for enabling drug use. But it is unclear right now whether or not this region of the brain can also be used to treat drug addiction and alcohol addiction.
To reach their conclusions, the researchers examined a group of 156 smokers who had suffered stroke induced damage in the insular cortex and investigated whether or not these smokers were more likely to quit by measuring two (2) separate indicators of smoking cessation – how severe were the cravings of the patients during hospitalization, after they experienced their stroke, and whether or not the patients resumed cigarette smoking after they experienced their stroke.
The researchers also used computed tomography (CT) and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to determine which area of each subject’s brain was affected.
The conclusion they came to was that the subjects who experienced a stoke in the insular cortex exhibited fewer and milder symptoms of withdrawal. Seventy percent (70%) of the subjects who had a stroke in this region of the brain quit cigarette smoking within three (3) months of the incident, whereas only 37 percent (37%) of the subjects who had a stroke in any other region of the brain quit cigarette smoking within the same period of time.
The findings are the results of two (2) different studies published recently in the journal Addiction and the journal Addictive Behaviors.
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