Landing on the front page of the New York Times today is a study from Science that may turn addiction medicine on its head…no pun intended. Of 32 smokers who had suffered a brain injury, they found that 16 who had suffered damage to the insula were easily able to quit smoking almost fully disrupting their smoking behavior in comparison to the other 16 who had suffered damage elsewhere. The insula is a region of the brain that has been previously implicated in conscious urges. Eating was not affected, implying that this area is critical for learned pleasurable behaviors like smoking. No association was found with injuries to other regions of the brain.
This may lead researchers away from focusing on the parts of the brain that deal with decision making and focus more on the insula. I always thought that would be what it takes to get some of my patients to stop smoking-a good slap upside their head… Have a great weekend.
2. Science article- Naqvi et. al. Science 26 January 2007:Vol. 315. no. 5811, pp. 531 – 534DOI: 10.1126/science.1135926
image courtesy of: http://classroom.sdmesa.edu/bbrothers/ModelPages/brain.htm