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Urge to Smoke Linked to Specific Area of the Brain

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A study recently released in the journal “Science” has linked the craving for nicotine which makes it so hard to quit smoking with a specific area of the brain.

Scientists studying stroke patients are reporting today that an injury to a specific part of the brain, near the ear, can instantly and permanently break a smoking habit. People with the injury who stopped smoking found that their bodies, as one man put it, “forgot the urge to smoke.”

While no one is suggesting brain injury as a solution for addiction, the finding suggests that therapies might focus on the insula, a prune-size region under the frontal lobes that is thought to register gut feelings and is apparently a critical part of the network that sustains addictive behavior.

Scientists trace this connection to the fact that the smoking behavior and responsiveness to nicotine is a learned behavior, versus eating which has its own sensory stimulation, however is a natural behavior.

Linking addictive behavior to a specific area of the brain helps enforce the biological nature of a substance addiction and will hopefully start us down the road of finding cures for addictive behaviors.