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First brain study reveals benefits of exercise on quitting smoking
Date:2/10/2009

Research from the University of Exeter reveals for the first time, that changes in brain activity, triggered by physical exercise, may help reduce cigarette cravings. Published in the journal Psychopharmacology, the study shows how exercise changes the way the brain processes information among smokers, thereby reducing their cravings for nicotine. For the first time, researchers used functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging (fMRI) to investigate how the brain processes images of cigarettes after exercise.

The study adds weight to a growing body of evidence that exercise can help manage addiction to nicotine and other substances. It backs up previous studies, which have shown that just one short burst of moderate exercise can significantly reduce smokers' nicotine cravings.

Ten regular smokers were asked to cycle at a moderate pace for ten minutes, after 15 hours of abstinence from nicotine. They were then given an fMRI scan while they viewed a series of 60 images. Some visuals featured cigarettes and would normally induce cravings in a smoker. On a second occasion, the same group was given an fMRI scan and shown the same series of images without having undertaken exercise. They were also asked to report on their cravings for nicotine during both phases of the study.

The brain images captured by the fMRI show a difference between the two conditions. After no exercise the smokers showed heightened activity in response to the images in areas of the brain associated with reward-processing and visual attention. After exercise the same areas of activation were not observed, which reflected a kind of 'default mode' in the brain. The smokers also reported lower cravings for cigarettes after exercise compared with when they had been inactive.

The researchers do not know exactly what caused the difference in brain activity following exercise. One suggestion is that completing exercise raises mood (possibly through increases in dop
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Contact: Sarah Hoyle
s.hoyle@exeter.ac.uk
01-392-262-062
University of Exeter
Source:Eurekalert

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