Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Visual craving suppressants

21.04.2010
The photograph of a lit cigarette arouses a desire for nicotine in smokers. "Not necessarily," say psychologists from the University of Würzburg. As they found out, some photographs even manage to trigger processes in the brain that are likely to suppress craving for this drug.

There are photographs that are capable of whipping up a smoker's craving for the next cigarette. Pictures that show the start of the smoking ritual, such as a freshly lit cigarette, are particularly good at this.

They activate the so-called reward centers in the brain. But the power of photography also works in the opposite direction: "We have established for the first time that pictures showing the end of the smoking ritual not only do not activate the addiction network in the brain, they even suppress it," explains Professor Paul Pauli.

The Chairman of the Department of Psychology I at the University of Würzburg has been researching nicotine dependency for a long time. The findings of his latest investigation, which he conducted in collaboration with psychologists from the University of Giessen as part of the research group "Emotion and Behavior" funded by the German Research Foundation, were recently published in the renowned journal Neuropsychopharmacology. The researchers now wish to build on this by examining whether these photographs can also be used to reduce the urge to smoke, for example within the context of treatment to help people quit smoking.

The course of the study

In this study, the psychologists showed pictures depicting the start and end of the smoking ritual to both smokers and nonsmokers. "Some of the cigarettes visible had been freshly lit, others were almost completely burnt down, and others still lay stubbed out in the ashtray," says Pauli. The fact that a freshly lit cigarette triggers a far greater craving in a smoker than one that has been stubbed out was already known to the scientists from earlier studies. "What we did not know, however, was whether there are stimuli that even suppress the reward centers in the brain," comments Pauli.

To answer this question, the scientists not only presented their test subjects with different photographs, they also recorded the responses they triggered in the brain using a magnetic resonance imager.

The outcome of the study

The outcome: pictures of a freshly lit cigarette activate the addiction network in the brain, particularly centers that influence the expectation of a reward. According to the psychologists, these activations are responsible for the craving for the drug. It is a very different story with images of stubbed-out butts in an ashtray: when these were shown, even deactivations were recorded in these parts of the brain, in comparison with control conditions. "So, while these stimuli that mark the end of the smoke are very clearly associated with smoking, they appear to suppress the addiction network in the brain," says Pauli.

Further investigations needed

The finding that the activity of the addiction network in the brain can be suppressed by specific stimuli is, the psychologists believe, an important step on the road to curbing smoking in certain situations. It may be that such stimuli can also be used as an aid for smokers who want to free themselves of cigarettes and of their craving for them.

However, before that day comes, further investigations are needed, which Pauli says are already underway in Würzburg and Giessen. They are using the same pictures, but this time their effect is being examined on people who have quit smoking in the recent to the distant past.

Neural Responses to BEGIN- and END-Stimuli of the Smoking Ritual in Nonsmokers, Nondeprived Smokers, and Deprived Smokers, Bastian Stippekohl, Markus Winkler, Ronald F Mucha, Paul Pauli, Bertram Walter, Dieter Vaitl and Rudolf Stark: Neuropsychopharmacology (2010) 35, 1209-1225; doi:10.1038/npp.2009.227

Contact: Prof. Dr. Paul Pauli, T: +49 (0)931 312842,
e-mail: pauli@psychologie.uni-wuerzburg.de

Gunnar Bartsch | idw
Further information:
http://www.uni-wuerzburg.de

More articles from Studies and Analyses:

nachricht The Great Unknown: Risk-Taking Behavior in Adolescents
19.01.2017 | Max-Planck-Institut für Bildungsforschung

nachricht A sudden drop in outdoor temperature increases the risk of respiratory infections
11.01.2017 | University of Gothenburg

All articles from Studies and Analyses >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Traffic jam in empty space

New success for Konstanz physicists in studying the quantum vacuum

An important step towards a completely new experimental access to quantum physics has been made at University of Konstanz. The team of scientists headed by...

Im Focus: How gut bacteria can make us ill

HZI researchers decipher infection mechanisms of Yersinia and immune responses of the host

Yersiniae cause severe intestinal infections. Studies using Yersinia pseudotuberculosis as a model organism aim to elucidate the infection mechanisms of these...

Im Focus: Interfacial Superconductivity: Magnetic and superconducting order revealed simultaneously

Researchers from the University of Hamburg in Germany, in collaboration with colleagues from the University of Aarhus in Denmark, have synthesized a new superconducting material by growing a few layers of an antiferromagnetic transition-metal chalcogenide on a bismuth-based topological insulator, both being non-superconducting materials.

While superconductivity and magnetism are generally believed to be mutually exclusive, surprisingly, in this new material, superconducting correlations...

Im Focus: Studying fundamental particles in materials

Laser-driving of semimetals allows creating novel quasiparticle states within condensed matter systems and switching between different states on ultrafast time scales

Studying properties of fundamental particles in condensed matter systems is a promising approach to quantum field theory. Quasiparticles offer the opportunity...

Im Focus: Designing Architecture with Solar Building Envelopes

Among the general public, solar thermal energy is currently associated with dark blue, rectangular collectors on building roofs. Technologies are needed for aesthetically high quality architecture which offer the architect more room for manoeuvre when it comes to low- and plus-energy buildings. With the “ArKol” project, researchers at Fraunhofer ISE together with partners are currently developing two façade collectors for solar thermal energy generation, which permit a high degree of design flexibility: a strip collector for opaque façade sections and a solar thermal blind for transparent sections. The current state of the two developments will be presented at the BAU 2017 trade fair.

As part of the “ArKol – development of architecturally highly integrated façade collectors with heat pipes” project, Fraunhofer ISE together with its partners...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Sustainable Water use in Agriculture in Eastern Europe and Central Asia

19.01.2017 | Event News

12V, 48V, high-voltage – trends in E/E automotive architecture

10.01.2017 | Event News

2nd Conference on Non-Textual Information on 10 and 11 May 2017 in Hannover

09.01.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

New Study Will Help Find the Best Locations for Thermal Power Stations in Iceland

19.01.2017 | Earth Sciences

Not of Divided Mind

19.01.2017 | Life Sciences

Molecule flash mob

19.01.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>