Smokers who are able to quit might actually be hard-wired for success, as suggested by a new study from Duke Medicine.
The study showed greater connectivity among certain brain regions in people who successfully quit smoking compared to those who tried and failed.
The researchers analyzed MRI scans of 85 people taken one month before they attempted to quit. All participants stopped smoking and the researchers tracked their progress for 10 weeks. Forty-one participants relapsed.
Looking back at the brain scans of the 44 smokers who quit successfully, the researchers found they had something in common before they stopped smoking: better synchrony (coordinated activity) between the insula, home to urges and cravings, and the somatosensory cortex, a part of the brain that is central to our sense of touch and motor control.
Lead author Merideth Addicott said that the insula is sending messages to other parts of the brain that then make the decision to pick up a cigarette or not.
The insula, a large region in the cerebral cortex, has been the subject of many smoking cessation studies that show this area of the brain is active when smokers are craving cigarettes, said senior author Joseph McClernon.
McClernon added that they have provided a blueprint and if they can increase connectivity in smokers to look more like those who quit successfully, that would be a place to start. They also need more research to understand what it is exactly about greater connectivity between these regions that increases the odds of success.
The study is published in Neuropsychopharmacology