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 WAKE-UP provides new treatment option for stroke patients | International study led by UKE
17.05.2018 | Universitätsklinikum Hamburg-Eppendorf

nachricht First form of therapy for childhood dementia CLN2 developed
25.04.2018 | Universitätsklinikum Hamburg-Eppendorf

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: Powerful IT security for the car of the future – research alliance develops new approaches

The more electronics steer, accelerate and brake cars, the more important it is to protect them against cyber-attacks. That is why 15 partners from industry and academia will work together over the next three years on new approaches to IT security in self-driving cars. The joint project goes by the name Security For Connected, Autonomous Cars (SecForCARs) and has funding of €7.2 million from the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research. Infineon is leading the project.

Vehicles already offer diverse communication interfaces and more and more automated functions, such as distance and lane-keeping assist systems. At the same...

Im Focus: Molecular switch will facilitate the development of pioneering electro-optical devices

A research team led by physicists at the Technical University of Munich (TUM) has developed molecular nanoswitches that can be toggled between two structurally different states using an applied voltage. They can serve as the basis for a pioneering class of devices that could replace silicon-based components with organic molecules.

The development of new electronic technologies drives the incessant reduction of functional component sizes. In the context of an international collaborative...

Im Focus: LZH showcases laser material processing of tomorrow at the LASYS 2018

At the LASYS 2018, from June 5th to 7th, the Laser Zentrum Hannover e.V. (LZH) will be showcasing processes for the laser material processing of tomorrow in hall 4 at stand 4E75. With blown bomb shells the LZH will present first results of a research project on civil security.

At this year's LASYS, the LZH will exhibit light-based processes such as cutting, welding, ablation and structuring as well as additive manufacturing for...

Im Focus: Self-illuminating pixels for a new display generation

There are videos on the internet that can make one marvel at technology. For example, a smartphone is casually bent around the arm or a thin-film display is rolled in all directions and with almost every diameter. From the user's point of view, this looks fantastic. From a professional point of view, however, the question arises: Is that already possible?

At Display Week 2018, scientists from the Fraunhofer Institute for Applied Polymer Research IAP will be demonstrating today’s technological possibilities and...

Im Focus: Explanation for puzzling quantum oscillations has been found

So-called quantum many-body scars allow quantum systems to stay out of equilibrium much longer, explaining experiment | Study published in Nature Physics

Recently, researchers from Harvard and MIT succeeded in trapping a record 53 atoms and individually controlling their quantum state, realizing what is called a...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

VideoLinks
Industry & Economy
Event News

In focus: Climate adapted plants

25.05.2018 | Event News

Save the date: Forum European Neuroscience – 07-11 July 2018 in Berlin, Germany

02.05.2018 | Event News

Invitation to the upcoming "Current Topics in Bioinformatics: Big Data in Genomics and Medicine"

13.04.2018 | Event News

 
Latest News

In focus: Climate adapted plants

25.05.2018 | Event News

Flow probes from the 3D printer

25.05.2018 | Machine Engineering

Less is more? Gene switch for healthy aging found

25.05.2018 | Life Sciences

VideoLinks
Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>