A recent study with eighty five participant’s show that the brains of some people have greater connectivity in some regions, and those people are more likely to be successful at smoking cessation attempts.

MRI Reveals Greater Connectivity

The eighty five participants in the study were given an MRI at the beginning of the study. They were then asked to stop smoking. The participants in the study were followed for ten weeks. During the ten week period more than forty of the individuals started to smoke again. Another MRI was performed on all of the participants after the ten weeks period was over.

The results of the MRI showed that the people who did not stop smoking had increased brain activity between the insula and the somatosensory cortex of their brains.

The insula is the portion of the brain that is the source of cravings and impulse urges. The somatosensory cortex helps your body with motor control functions, and things related to your sense of touch.

The Role the Insula Played in Smoking Cessation

When the insula told the brain that the body craved a cigarette then the somatosensory cortex instructed the body to pick one up, light it, and smoke it. When the insula was damaged and the connectivity between it and the somatosensory cortex was disrupted the person lost all interest in smoking.

What this means

Neurofeedback and transcranial magnetic stimulation have been successful in modulating brain activity. The senior author of the study, Joseph McClernon, who is an associate professor at Duke University believes that smoking cessation interventions can be performed using neurofeedback technology.

Researchers can use this information about the insula and develop a way to modulate the way the insula reacts, and that could help people to stop smoking without using any drugs, or suffering from withdrawal symptoms.

What doctors can learn from this study

Many doctors get frustrated when they have patients that simply do not respond to smoking cessation programs. The information from this study may allow doctors to understand that the inability of a patient to stop smoking might be the result of the connections in their brain, and may have little to do with the will power, or their desire to stop smoking.

Doctors can help their patients who are struggling to quit by explaining these connections, and suggesting neurofeedback to help change the way they perceive smoking.

Further research

With further research into the connective activity between the insula and the other parts of the brain, it is possible that modulation interventions to help stop other addictions could be discovered. This discovery could be the beginning of the end to alcohol addiction, drug addiction, and even sugar addiction.

With further research we might find a way to solve a lot of the addiction problems, and some of the obesity concerns that our society faces.