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Stroke Damage Can Help Smokers Quit

Stroke Damage Can Help Smokers Quit
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By    |   Tuesday, 08 September 2015 02:43 PM


Two studies indicate that the insular cortex region of the brain may hold the key to helping smokers quit, as well as conquering other addictions.

Lead researcher Amir Abdolahi, Ph.D. found that smokers who suffered a stroke in the insular cortex were much more likely to quit smoking and experience fewer withdrawal symptoms than patients who had strokes in other parts of the brain.

"These findings indicate that the insular cortex may play a central role in addiction," Abdolahi said.

"When this part of the brain is damaged during stroke, smokers are about twice as likely to stop smoking and their craving and withdrawal symptoms are far less severe."

While smoking has declined in the United States, it's still responsible for almost 1 in 5 deaths, according to the Centers for Disease Control. Smokers, on average, die 10 years earlier than non-smokers.

The prescription drugs most often used to help smokers quit — which include bupropion and varenicline — mainly target the brain's "reward" system to nicotine.

Unfortunately, 70 percent of smokers who quit using the drugs begin smoking again within six months. Other nicotine replacement therapies, such as patches and lozenges, have similar rates of relapse.

Since recent studies indicated that the insular cortex area of the brain might play an important role in addiction, the researchers decided to determine whether smokers whose insular cortex had been damaged during a stroke were more likely to quit.

They studied 156 stroke patients who were smokers, and determined by MRI and CT scans where the stroke was located in the brain.

The patients were divided into two different groups — those with strokes in the insular cortex and those with a stroke in a different part of the brain.

Since they couldn't smoke during recovery, the severity of their withdrawal symptoms was measured.

They found that patients whose strokes occurred in their insular cortex had fewer and far less severe withdrawal symptoms than those with strokes in other parts of the brain.

The patients were followed for three months to see if they had started to smoke again.

Almost twice as many people who had strokes in the insular cortex remained smoke-free when compared to those with strokes in other areas of their brains — 70 percent versus 37 percent.

The studies pave the way for researchers to develop other therapies, such as new drugs or techniques like transcranial magnetic stimuation. The studies also suggest the insular cortex may be key to other forms of addiction.

"Much more research is needed in order for us to more fully understand the underlying mechanism and specific role of the insular cortex," said Abdolahi, "but it is clear that something is going on in this part of the brain that is influencing addiction."

The studies appear in the journals Addiction and Addictive Behaviors.

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Two studies indicate that the insular cortex region of the brain may hold the key to helping smokers quit, as well as conquering other addictions. Lead researcher Amir Abdolahi, Ph.D. found that smokers who suffered a stroke in the insular cortex were much more likely to...
stroke, damage, help, smokers, quit, brain
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2015-43-08
Tuesday, 08 September 2015 02:43 PM
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