Japan-Canada study pinpoints brain’s addiction hot spots


A smoker’s craving to light up can be tamed by carefully targeted magnetic fields applied to the brain, a Japanese-Canadian team has found.

Scientists managed to zoom in on the exact spots that drive cravings for nicotine, noting that a mental connection made when a smoker is able to have a cigarette markedly increases the desire to fire up.

By interrupting this connection, they found that an addict is better able to control his or her cravings, Takuya Hayashi of the Riken institute’s Center for Molecular Imaging Science said Wednesday in Kobe.

“Cabin attendants who smoke say they feel stronger cravings for cigarettes as they approach landing times, no matter whether their flights are long-distance or not. Our study shows the urge for smoking is not only about whether smokers are running out of nicotine” but also about the role of a neural mechanism, Hayashi said. “The findings could lead to the development of treatments for tobacco and other addictions.”

The study, conducted jointly with Canada’s McGill University, appears in the journal PNAS.