Friday, January 26, 2007

Neural Circuitry Approach to Ending Urge to Smoke

Article in the Chicago Tribune -- Brain injury tied to halt in smoking: Research on neural circuitry offers hope of powerful treatment to break nicotine's grip, by Michael Stroh:

In a finding that could lead to powerful new treatments for smokers unable to quit, scientists have discovered that people who experienced stroke damage to a prune-sized spot deep within the brain suddenly lost the urge to light up.

The research, published Friday in the journal Science, appears to underscore nicotine's far-reaching grip on a smoker's neural circuitry--and how much there remains to learn about it. Until now, addiction researchers have largely ignored the brain structure implicated in the study--a region called the insula.

"It's a really tremendous paper, one that points us in a whole new direction," says Steven Grant, who serves as chief of the clinical neuroscience branch of the government's National Institute on Drug Abuse. He was not involved in the study. "It says: This is a brain area the addiction field needs to focus a lot of attention on."

While intentionally inflicting damage on a smoker's brain is ethically out of the question, scientists said it may be possible to mimic the effect of insula injury with drugs or other therapies. Such treatments also may help people addicted to chemicals other than nicotine, researchers said.

The New York Times also has an article -- In Clue to Addiction, Brain Injury Halts Smoking, by Benedict Carey.


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