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Brain Scan Study of Smokers Reveals Signature of Craving

Not all smokers are alike when it comes to cravings, and a new study conducted by researchers at Duke University Medical Center suggests the difference may lie in their brains' sensitivity to drug cues. The researchers found that smokers who report a greater urge to smoke after a period of abstinence also exhibit stronger brain activity after viewing smoking-related images, such as others smoking or a pack of cigarettes.

Smokers who noted fewer cravings showed stable brain responses to the same drug cues, despite hours of deprivation.

The findings suggest important differences among smokers in brain responses that underlie the smoking habit, the researchers said. What's more, they added, such brain scans may yield diagnostic tests for predicting which smokers will benefit most from particular quitting methods.

The team reported its results in an article in the journal Neuropsychopharmacology that is now online and which will be published in print in a forthcoming issue. The research was supported by the National Institute on Drug Abuse.

"Our results suggest that not all smokers are the same; they don't all respond to drug cues in the same way," said Joe McClernon, Ph.D., a clinical psychologist at the Duke Center for Nicotine and Smoking Cessation Research and lead author of the study. "Furthermore, how they respond depends on the degree to which deprivation leads them to crave cigarettes.

"Smokers' responses to drug cues are important in maintaining the smoking habit and also serve as strong triggers to return to smoking for those who have quit," McClernon added. "As we begin to understand the underlying brain processes, we may discover new methods for manipulating those responses to better help smokers quit."

While scientists have thought that nicotine is the primary agent responsible for cigarette addiction, recent evidence suggests that conditioned responses to sensory cues also play an important role, McClernon sai
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Source:DukeHealth


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