Damage to part of the brain may cause persons addicted to nicotine(Drug information on nicotine) to "forget" to smoke, a recent press release from the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) claims. Preliminary research showed that smokers may find it easier to quit after suffering damage to the insula.
In the study, 13 of 19 smokers who had experienced brain damage resulting in lesions on the insula quit smoking. Only 19 out of 50 smokers with brain injuries not affecting the insula quit smoking.
The smokers who experienced greater ease in quitting were identified based on 4 behavioral criteria: those who reported quitting smoking less than 1 day after the brain injury, those who reported that difficulty of quitting was less than 3 on a scale of 1 to 7, those who reported that they did not smoke after quitting, and those who reported no urge to smoke after quitting. Twelve of 13 participants with damage to their insula who quit smoking met these criteria, compared with only 4 of 19 participants without insula damage who quit smoking.
Dr Antoine Bechara of the University of Southern California, lead author of the study, which was published in the January 26, 2007, issue of Science, explained that the insula "plays a role in the desire to smoke by anticipating physical effects brought on by emotions such as those induced by environmental cues. Thus, damage to the insula could lead smokers to feel that their bodies have 'forgotten' the urge to smoke."
Dr Nora Volkow, director of NIDA, emphasized the importance of these findings. "While additional research is needed to replicate these findings, the current study suggests that damage to the insula can impact the conscious 'urge' to smoke, making it easier for smokers to quit and remain abstinent," she said. "Medications that target receptors within the insula may offer promise in developing more effective smoking cessation therapies in the future."