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How Does the Brain Play A Role in Nicotine Addiction?

The brain receptors become extremely overwhelmed during addiction. It then starts to react by producing less dopamine or even completely eliminating dopamine receptors. According to most PET studies, addiction is concentrated on the brain’s dopamine system. But did you know that the brain also has a role in nicotine addiction?

Smokers who had their insula destroyed after a stroke could quit smoking without relapsing or desires one day after the stroke, suggesting that this brain region may play a role in nicotine addiction.

What is the Insula?

The Insula, according to neuroscientists, is a long-overlooked brain region that has become critical to comprehending what it is to be human.

It is said to be the source of social feelings such as lust, contempt, pride, humiliation, guilt, and atonement. It aids in developing moral intuition, empathy, and the ability to respond to music emotionally. Its anatomy and evolution revealed essential distinctions between humans and other animals.

The Insula also detects hunger and cravings, encouraging people to grab the next sandwich, cigarette, or cocaine line. As a result, insula research provides new perspectives on the treatment of drug addiction, alcoholism, anxiety, and eating disorders. (Source: The New York Times)

Nicotine Addiction in Adolescents and Young Adults

Nicotine is hazardous for those under the age of 25. Nicotine is introduced to many young individuals through e-cigarettes.

Any e-cigarette use among young people is unsafe, even if they do not progress to future cigarette smoking. 

Dr. Jerome Adams, US Surgeon General

Nicotine’s impacts on brain development are substantially to blame for the dangers. The human brain does not fully mature until humans reach the age of 25. Nicotine can obstruct aspects of that development, resulting in long-term brain damage.

Nicotine can cause problems with attention, learning, mood, and impulse control in the brain. People under the age of 25 are also more likely to develop a nicotine addiction before their brains have fully developed. (Source: Drug Watch)

How is Addiction to Cigarette Smoking Disrupted When the Insula is Damaged After a Stroke?

Cigarette smoking is an addictive practice that is the most prevalent preventable cause of disease and mortality in the developed world. Despite being aware of the dangers, many smokers have trouble stopping, and even those who succeed in quitting feel cravings for cigarettes and are prone to relapse. 

Long-term adaptations within different brain systems appear to be the source of these phenomena. Animal studies have revealed that subcortical areas such as the amygdala, nucleus accumbens, and the mesotelencephalic dopamine pathway enhance the self-administration of drugs of abuse.

A variety of brain systems have been linked to addictive behavior, but none have been proved to be required to maintain cigarette smoking addiction.

It was discovered that smokers with brain damage involving the Insula, a region implicated in conscious urges, were more likely than smokers without insula damage to experience a disruption of smoking addiction, defined as the ability to quit smoking easily, immediately, without relapse, and without the urge to smoke persisting. 

This finding suggests that the Insula is a crucial neurological substrate in developing a smoking addiction. (Source: National Library of Medicine)

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