An incident that holds incredible risk for patients has brought on the possibility of new research, as strokes might have revealed the key to treating addiction due to mild brain damage in a specific region of the brain. Among heart disease and cancer, a stroke is just one other risk smokers undertake when indulging in their dangerously unhealthy habit.
However, it does seem that their potentially lethal affect might’ve helped a team of researchers better understand the core of addiction, by studying an area of the brain affected due to the cerebrovascular event.
The study involved 156 patients, who were admitted into three different hospitals due to a stroke, all of which were reported as active smokers. They were divided into two groups, one for those who had suffered strokes in their insular cortex of the brain, and the second for patients who had seen damage in all other regions of the brain.
The hospitals posed as the perfect environment to both assess the aftermath of their condition’s effect on the brain, such as the severity of their withdrawal symptoms, as well as following it up with how likely patients were to quit three months after the hospitalization. Having a stroke on itself has been called a ‘wake up call’ for most patients.
However, out of all those who received the warnings and saw the red flags, 70% of the patients who quit smoking were part of the group who had suffered a stroke in their insular cortex region. They had also displayed much milder withdrawal symptoms and a much easier struggle with battling the craving for a cigarette.
According to Amir Abdolahi, lead author of the study, this might indicate that the insular cortex “may play a central role in addiction”. The location of the stroke seemed to have definitely influenced their battle against craving nicotine, and made it far easier to renounce an unhealthy vice.
Their findings successfully back up a previous study by Dr. Antoine Bechara from the University of Southern Carolina, which stated that stroke victims with damage in the insular cortex region of the brain had claimed that their bodies had “forgotten the urge to smoke”.
The results and further research might revolutionize the way the medical community approaches addiction, by finding the precise area of the brain which influences its severity the most. There is need for extensive study to better understand the underlying mechanism beneath the insular cortex, but “it is clear that something is going on in this part of the brain that is influencing addiction”, according to Abdolahi.
Image source: medscape.com