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Nicotine withdrawal weakens brain connections tied to self-control over cigarette cravings
Date:3/12/2014

PHILADELPHIA People who try to quit smoking often say that kicking the habit makes the voice inside telling them to light up even louder, but why people succumb to those cravings so often has never been fully understood. Now, a new brain imaging study in this week's JAMA Psychiatry from scientists in Penn Medicine and the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) Intramural Research Program shows how smokers suffering from nicotine withdrawal may have more trouble shifting from a key brain networkknown as default mode, when people are in a so-called "introspective" or "self-referential" state and into a control network, the so-called executive control network, that could help exert more conscious, self-control over cravings and to focus on quitting for good.

The findings help validate a neurobiological basis behind why so many people trying to quit end up relapsingup to 80 percent, depending on the type of treatmentand may lead to new ways to identify smokers at high risk for relapse who need more intensive smoking cessation therapy.

The brain imaging study was led by researchers at University of Pennsylvania's new Brain and Behavior Change Program, led by Caryn Lerman, PhD, who is also the deputy director of Penn's Abramson Cancer Center, and Elliot Stein, PhD, and collaborators at NIDA. They found that smokers who abstained from cigarettes showed weakened interconnectivity between certain large-scale networks in their brains: the default mode network, the executive control network, and the salience network. They posit that this weakened connectivity reduces smokers' ability to shift into or maintain greater influence from the executive control network, which may ultimately help maintain their quitting attempt.

"What we believe this means is that smokers who just quit have a more difficult time shifting gears from inward thoughts a
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Contact: Steve Graff
stephen.graff@uphs.upenn.edu
215-349-5653
University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine
Source:Eurekalert  

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