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Smokers not very receptive to shocking images
Date:7/12/2011

The study, which was supported by the German Research Foundation, brought together scientists from the Universities of Bonn and Kln, as well as from the Charit in Berlin. 28 younger persons who had been smoking for quite a number of years and an equal number of non-smokers participated in this study. Each of the subjects was shown photos of happy, fearful and neutral faces while their brain activity was recorded. The researchers were particularly interested in the amygdala a structure the shape and size of an almond. "It is the brain's fear center," said Privatdozent Dr. Dr. med. Ren Hurlemann, Oberarzt at the Klinik und Poliklinik fr Psychiatrie und Psychotherapie des Universittsklinikums Bonn.

The amygdala was always active when the participants were shown fearful faces. "Initially, there were no differences visible between smokers and non-smokers," reported Dr. zgr Onur, the study's principal author and neurologist who used to work at the Universittsklinikum Bonn and is now employed by the Universittsklinikum Kln. "So, the processing of emotions in the brain worked in a similar manner in both groups." This was always the case when the addicted participants were allowed to smoke sufficiently. The study's subjects, who ranged in age up to their late twenties, consumed an average of 17 cigarettes a day, and had been doing so for nine years.

Lower amygdala activity after abstinence

However, when the smokers came off a 12-hour abstinence period, the picture changed. "After only a few hours of abstinence, the activity of the fear center was far lower, as compared to the earlier state," said Onur. "They simply were indifferent to images of fearful people."

This lack of fear is problematic. "The amygdala is prevented from performing its natural function," explained Hurlemann. "Fear is an archaic instinct that protects us from doing things that are dangerous." Smokers who have recently been abstinent do not show this nat
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Contact: Dr. Ren Hurlemann
r.hurlemann@googlemail.com
0049-228-287-15057
University of Bonn
Source:Eurekalert

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