Our brain can be taught to control cravings, researchers find

August 2, 2010, Yale University

Standard therapeutic techniques decrease cravings of cigarette smokers by regulating activity in two separate but related areas of the brain, a new study led by a Yale University researcher shows.

Smokers who are taught cognitive strategies, such as thinking about the long-term consequences of smoking, show increased activity in the , an area of the associated with cognitive control and rational thought. They also show decreased activity in areas of the striatum, an area of the brain associated with drug craving and reward-seeking behavior, according to the paper published online Aug. 2 in the .

"This shows that can indeed control their cravings, they just need to be told how to do it," said Hedy Kober, assistant professor of psychiatry at the Yale School of Medicine and lead author of the paper.

Cravings are the triggers that often lead to relapse in a host of addictions, which carry a staggering economic and social cost. Cigarette smoking alone is responsible for over 400,000 deaths per year in the U.S. (more than all illicit drugs and alcohol combined). Some experts predict that substance abusers should show impairments in areas of the prefrontal cortex, which among other functions helps control emotion. But in smokers at least, this does not appear to be the case. This area of the brain showed increased activity -- and smokers reported less intense cravings -- when using cognitive strategies.

has been shown to be an effective tool in treating a variety of mental health disorders, including substance use disorders. The new study shows why this approach is effective, Kober said.

"We do not see any impairment in the prefrontal cortex, which suggests the brain is able, when prompted, to recruit control regions to reduce ," Kober said.

Related Stories

Recommended for you

Intensive behavior therapy no better than conventional support in treating teenagers with antisocial behavior

January 19, 2018
Research led by UCL has found that intensive and costly multisystemic therapy is no better than conventional therapy in treating teenagers with moderate to severe antisocial behaviour.

Babies' babbling betters brains, language

January 18, 2018
Babies are adept at getting what they need - including an education. New research shows that babies organize mothers' verbal responses, which promotes more effective language instruction, and infant babbling is the key.

College branding makes beer more salient to underage students

January 18, 2018
In recent years, major beer companies have tried to capitalize on the salience of students' university affiliations, unveiling marketing campaigns and products—such as "fan cans," store displays, and billboard ads—that ...

Inherited IQ can increase in early childhood

January 18, 2018
When it comes to intelligence, environment and education matter – more than we think.

Modulating molecules: Study shows oxytocin helps the brain to modulate social signals

January 17, 2018
Between sights, sounds, smells and other senses, the brain is flooded with stimuli on a moment-to-moment basis. How can it sort through the flood of information to decide what is important and what can be relegated to the ...

Baby brains help infants figure it out before they try it out

January 17, 2018
Babies often amaze their parents when they seemingly learn new skills overnight—how to walk, for example. But their brains were probably prepping for those tasks long before their first steps occurred, according to researchers.

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.