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Stroke brain damage key to addiction recovery?

Published On: 09-10-2015 in Category: addiction, Cognition, Drug Addiction, Recovery


According to Medical News Today, an intriguing side effect of stroke has caused a study to be carried out which may help people free themselves from addictions. Patients who were smokers and suffered a stroke in the insular cortex region of the brain were significantly more successful than others in quitting smoking following their stroke. Scientists deducted that this region could be pivotal in the treatment of addiction.

Study lead author Amir Abdolahi, a researcher at Philips Research North America said, “When this part of the brain is damaged during stroke, smokers are about twice as likely to stop smoking and their craving and withdrawal symptoms are far less severe.” Over 150 people took part in the study, all of whom were active smokers and former stroke patients.

Using magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and computed tomography (CT), stroke locations were detected and the patients were divided into two groups. Group one consisted of 38 patients whose strokes had occurred in the insular cortex, group two, made up of 118 patients, endured strokes that had occurred in other regions of the brain. The researchers wanted to know whether smokers with damage to the insular cortex were more likely to quit smoking than those with damage elsewhere.

Currently, antismoking prescription drugs work by disrupting brain reward centers, the success rate after six months is about 30 percent, meaning 70 percent of these drugs are unsuccessful. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), cigarette smoking is the leading cause of preventable disease and death in the U.S., accounting for more than 480,000 deaths every year.

The researchers asked the subjects about the severity of cravings during hospitalization for stroke and whether they had resumed smoking upon discharge. Those with insular cortex strokes had fewer and less severe withdrawal symptoms compared with patients whose strokes had occurred in other brain areas. The subjects were followed up three months later to check on smoking habits.

It was discovered that 37 percent of patients with strokes in other parts of the brain had successfully quit smoking and of the patients with strokes in the insular cortex, 70 percent had quit smoking. Abdolahi concluded, “Much more research is needed in order for us to fully understand the underlying mechanism and specific role of the insular cortex but it is clear that something is going on in this part of the brain that is influencing addiction.”

The success rate for quitting smoking for insular cortex stroke patients was 40 percent higher than for patients using prescription anti-smoking medication. Hopefully these results will translate to help for other addictions such as drugs and alcohol, future research will let us know.

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