Stroke Victim's Loss of Desire to Smoke Sheds New Light on Addiction
> 1/26/2007 11:04:49 AM

Dr. Antoine Bechara, currently working at the University of Southern California, had been looking into the damage caused by strokes and other brain damage while at the University of Iowa when he came upon a 38-year-old stroke victim and life-long smoker, who lost all urge to smoke immediately after his stroke. This wasn't just a health-scare related cessation of smoking either, it was as if the patient had a switch turned off in his head. This incident led Dr. Bechara to investigate further, where he discovered that, in fact, a neurological switch just might have caused this patient's sudden lack of interest in smoking.

As the AP reports, the area of interest is a small area of the brain called the insula (red in the image below):

The insula appears to be where the brain turns physical reactions into feelings, such as feeling anxious when your heart speeds up. When those reactions are caused by a particular substance, the insula may act like sort of a headquarters for cravings.

Bechara's paper on this new discovery appears in this week's issue of Science, and the journal's news service explained just what this discovery could mean for addiciton researchers:

The findings could have implications for how to beat addiction, Bechara says. Based on the experiences related by the insula-damaged patients, he suspects that the insula is needed create the feeling that smoking is a bodily need. Bechara notes that other research has suggested that the bodily effects of smoking--particularly the effects on the airways--are a crucial part of the satisfaction smokers get from puffing away. If so, he speculates, smoking cessation therapies such as denicotinized cigarettes may ultimately prove more effective than nicotine patches because they provide physical sensations that stimulate the insula and satisfy the smoker.

Bechara's discovery, which confirms what previous researchers have highlighted, brings us a step closer to more concrete answers to questions about addiction. By focusing research even more closely on the insula, we may hopefully soon have specific treatments to help those with a desire to quit, make sure their decision sticks.


My mother smoked for fifty years and recently had a very light stroke. She hasn't smoked since and claims not to crave a cigarette at all, she even lets my dad smoke in their house without complaining! This news is huge! My only hope is that it is researched to the point where it won't take a stroke to knock out the craving.
Posted by: Scott Kelso 2/13/2007 10:03:12 AM

I have to offer some input to this item.My name is Charles I was born in 1938 as the first born in a typical Irish family. by age 14 I was walking the lanes where I lived smoking, wait for it...Creeper from a local tree hosting that particular vine - didn't I look great! with my mates doing the same stupid thing. That was the early 1950s when smoking wasn't frowned down on as it is today. Well I then graduated to the real thing as and when I could afford the 1/11 for a packet of tabs. for the younger reader that would equate to about 6 pence in today's money - for 10 cigarettes!!! We now move on swiftly to the early 1970s I decided it was time to pack smoking in all together hearing about Cancer and heart attacks and all that so I did! I quit for three be continued-very soon.
URL: www.cfm-voxzone
Posted by: Charles McCrory 5/4/2007 10:26:12 AM

Cont/dI ran a small electronic manufacturing company in the NE of England and at that time I was paranoiac about having a heart attack – my age then 32yrs or so. I even, when fitting out my nice new factory facility created a canteen room where smoking was permitted for those from the 29 employees who indulged in that filthy habit. My planning and thinking was more in keeping with the year 2007 not 1977.I stayed off cigarettes for three years as far as I remember broken only by a business trip to Amsterdam and a ‘nice’ cigar after a very nice evening meal. The smoking of substitutes went on for three or four months the one day I tried a cigarette again – it felt tiny in my mouth after the King Edwards I smoked but – I was hooked again! Back with the smoking masses sorry idiots!To be continued..
Posted by: Charles McCrory 5/24/2007 11:36:36 AM

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