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 importance of biodiversity in forests could increase due to climate change
17.11.2017 | Deutsches Zentrum für integrative Biodiversitätsforschung (iDiv) Halle-Jena-Leipzig

nachricht Win-win strategies for climate and food security
02.10.2017 | International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA)

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: Nanoparticles help with malaria diagnosis – new rapid test in development

The WHO reports an estimated 429,000 malaria deaths each year. The disease mostly affects tropical and subtropical regions and in particular the African continent. The Fraunhofer Institute for Silicate Research ISC teamed up with the Fraunhofer Institute for Molecular Biology and Applied Ecology IME and the Institute of Tropical Medicine at the University of Tübingen for a new test method to detect malaria parasites in blood. The idea of the research project “NanoFRET” is to develop a highly sensitive and reliable rapid diagnostic test so that patient treatment can begin as early as possible.

Malaria is caused by parasites transmitted by mosquito bite. The most dangerous form of malaria is malaria tropica. Left untreated, it is fatal in most cases....

Im Focus: A “cosmic snake” reveals the structure of remote galaxies

The formation of stars in distant galaxies is still largely unexplored. For the first time, astron-omers at the University of Geneva have now been able to closely observe a star system six billion light-years away. In doing so, they are confirming earlier simulations made by the University of Zurich. One special effect is made possible by the multiple reflections of images that run through the cosmos like a snake.

Today, astronomers have a pretty accurate idea of how stars were formed in the recent cosmic past. But do these laws also apply to older galaxies? For around a...

Im Focus: Visual intelligence is not the same as IQ

Just because someone is smart and well-motivated doesn't mean he or she can learn the visual skills needed to excel at tasks like matching fingerprints, interpreting medical X-rays, keeping track of aircraft on radar displays or forensic face matching.

That is the implication of a new study which shows for the first time that there is a broad range of differences in people's visual ability and that these...

Im Focus: Novel Nano-CT device creates high-resolution 3D-X-rays of tiny velvet worm legs

Computer Tomography (CT) is a standard procedure in hospitals, but so far, the technology has not been suitable for imaging extremely small objects. In PNAS, a team from the Technical University of Munich (TUM) describes a Nano-CT device that creates three-dimensional x-ray images at resolutions up to 100 nanometers. The first test application: Together with colleagues from the University of Kassel and Helmholtz-Zentrum Geesthacht the researchers analyzed the locomotory system of a velvet worm.

During a CT analysis, the object under investigation is x-rayed and a detector measures the respective amount of radiation absorbed from various angles....

Im Focus: Researchers Develop Data Bus for Quantum Computer

The quantum world is fragile; error correction codes are needed to protect the information stored in a quantum object from the deteriorating effects of noise. Quantum physicists in Innsbruck have developed a protocol to pass quantum information between differently encoded building blocks of a future quantum computer, such as processors and memories. Scientists may use this protocol in the future to build a data bus for quantum computers. The researchers have published their work in the journal Nature Communications.

Future quantum computers will be able to solve problems where conventional computers fail today. We are still far away from any large-scale implementation,...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Ecology Across Borders: International conference brings together 1,500 ecologists

15.11.2017 | Event News

Road into laboratory: Users discuss biaxial fatigue-testing for car and truck wheel

15.11.2017 | Event News

#Berlin5GWeek: The right network for Industry 4.0

30.10.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Corporate coworking as a driver of innovation

22.11.2017 | Business and Finance

PPPL scientists deliver new high-resolution diagnostic to national laser facility

22.11.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

Quantum optics allows us to abandon expensive lasers in spectroscopy

22.11.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>