Why do some people have such a hard time quitting smoking? The benefits of smoking are nonexistent, yet the risks are high: smoking is the number one cause of preventable death in the U.S. Knowing this, many smokers are able to successfully kick the habit, but what of the ones who can’t? A new MRI study posits that the ability to quit may depend on an individual’s brain wiring.
The study, titled Increased Functional Connectivity in an Insula-Based Network is Associated with Improved Smoking Cessation Outcomes was published recently in the journal Neuropsychopharmacology.
The researchers recruited 85 smokers and began analyzing their brain activity via MRI approximately one month before they attempted to quit. Success rates were roughly 50/50: 44 smokers became non-smokers, while 41 relapsed.
Looking at the brain scans, the researchers discovered that the participants who had succeeded in their goal to quit smoking showed greater connectivity in the region of the brain known as the insula, the area responsible for making sense of urges and cravings, and the somantosensory cortex, the area responsible for motor control.
Says study author Dr. Meredith Addicott, “Simply put, the insula is sending messages to other parts of the brain that then make the decision to pick up a cigarette or not.”