Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:


Smokers not very receptive to shocking images

A team of researchers led by the University of Bonn found clear changes in how emotions are processed in smokers. After an abstinence period of 12 hours, the brain’s fear center was mostly out of commission in addicts. The researchers assume that a campaign using images of smokers’ lungs as deterrents on cigarette packs – as both the US and EU are currently planning – will hardly have an effect on this group.

The study, which was supported by the German Research Foundation, brought together scientists from the Universities of Bonn and Köln, as well as from the Charité in Berlin. 28 younger persons who had been smoking for quite a number of years and an equal number of non-smokers participated in this study.

Each of the subjects was shown photos of happy, fearful and neutral faces while their brain activity was recorded. The researchers were particularly interested in the amygdala – a structure the shape and size of an almond. “It is the brain’s fear center,” said Privatdozent Dr. Dr. med. René Hurlemann, Oberarzt at the Klinik und Poliklinik für Psychiatrie und Psychotherapie des Universitätsklinikums Bonn.

The amygdala was always active when the participants were shown fearful faces. “Initially, there were no differences visible between smokers and non-smokers,” reported Dr. Özgür Onur, the study’s principal author and neurologist who used to work at the Universitätsklinikum Bonn and is now employed by the Universitätsklinikum Köln. “So, the processing of emotions in the brain worked in a similar manner in both groups.” This was always the case when the addicted participants were allowed to smoke sufficiently. The study’s subjects, who ranged in age up to their late twenties, consumed an average of 17 cigarettes a day, and had been doing so for nine years.

Lower amygdala activity after abstinence

However, when the smokers came off a 12-hour abstinence period, the picture changed. “After only a few hours of abstinence, the activity of the fear center was far lower, as compared to the earlier state,” said Onur. “They simply were indifferent to images of fearful people.”

This lack of fear is problematic. “The amygdala is prevented from performing its natural function,” explained Hurlemann. “Fear is an archaic instinct that protects us from doing things that are dangerous.” Smokers who have recently been abstinent do not show this natural response pattern – they are not afraid of the consequences of smoking. “It seems that they are mentally caught up in their addiction, resulting in a lowered receptivity for fear-inducing stimuli,” said Onur. “It seems that smokers need nicotine in order to maintain the normal function of their amygdala.”

Hurlemann doubts that the shocking images of smokers’ lungs and tumors on cigarette packs, which are in the works in the US and also under consideration in the EU, will have much effect on the majority of addicts. “In those who stop smoking, the activity of the fear center has been lowered so much that they are not very receptive to the scary photos,” said Hurlemann.

Half of all smokers die early

“There are 1.2 billion smokers worldwide,” said Hurlemann. “Statistically it can be assumed that about half of them will die early from consequences related to smoking.” That is why it was important to ask how these people could be helped, he added. “Maybe we should invest more in therapy measures for smokers and into research to find the optimum smoking cessation methods for different types of patients?”

In non-smokers, however, the amygdala is active, which is why in his opinion, shocking images will be effective for them. “Those who do not smoke yet can probably be kept from smoking by such scare tactics,” Dr. Özgür Onur concurred.

Oezguer A. Onur, Alexandra Patin, Yoan Mihov, Boris Buecher, Birgit Stoffel-Wagner, Thomas E. Schlaepfer, Henrik Walter, Wolfgang Meier und René Hurlemann: Overnight Deprivation from Smoking Disrupts Amygdala Responses to Fear, Journal “Human Brain Mapping,” Internet:
Privatdozent Dr. Dr. med. René Hurlemann
Oberarzt an der Klinik und Poliklinik für Psychiatrie und Psychotherapie des Universitätsklinikums Bonn
Ph.: 0049-228-28 71 50 57

Johannes Seiler | idw
Further information:

More articles from Health and Medicine:

nachricht Indian roadside refuse fires produce toxic rainbow
26.10.2016 | Duke University

nachricht Inflammation Triggers Unsustainable Immune Response to Chronic Viral Infection
24.10.2016 | Universität Basel

All articles from Health and Medicine >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

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

Im Focus: Etching Microstructures with Lasers

Ultrafast lasers have introduced new possibilities in engraving ultrafine structures, and scientists are now also investigating how to use them to etch microstructures into thin glass. There are possible applications in analytics (lab on a chip) and especially in electronics and the consumer sector, where great interest has been shown.

This new method was born of a surprising phenomenon: irradiating glass in a particular way with an ultrafast laser has the effect of making the glass up to a...

Im Focus: Light-driven atomic rotations excite magnetic waves

Terahertz excitation of selected crystal vibrations leads to an effective magnetic field that drives coherent spin motion

Controlling functional properties by light is one of the grand goals in modern condensed matter physics and materials science. A new study now demonstrates how...

Im Focus: New 3-D wiring technique brings scalable quantum computers closer to reality

Researchers from the Institute for Quantum Computing (IQC) at the University of Waterloo led the development of a new extensible wiring technique capable of controlling superconducting quantum bits, representing a significant step towards to the realization of a scalable quantum computer.

"The quantum socket is a wiring method that uses three-dimensional wires based on spring-loaded pins to address individual qubits," said Jeremy Béjanin, a PhD...

Im Focus: Scientists develop a semiconductor nanocomposite material that moves in response to light

In a paper in Scientific Reports, a research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute describes a novel light-activated phenomenon that could become the basis for applications as diverse as microscopic robotic grippers and more efficient solar cells.

A research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) has developed a revolutionary, light-activated semiconductor nanocomposite material that can be used...

Im Focus: Diamonds aren't forever: Sandia, Harvard team create first quantum computer bridge

By forcefully embedding two silicon atoms in a diamond matrix, Sandia researchers have demonstrated for the first time on a single chip all the components needed to create a quantum bridge to link quantum computers together.

"People have already built small quantum computers," says Sandia researcher Ryan Camacho. "Maybe the first useful one won't be a single giant quantum computer...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>



Event News

#IC2S2: When Social Science meets Computer Science - GESIS will host the IC2S2 conference 2017

14.10.2016 | Event News

Agricultural Trade Developments and Potentials in Central Asia and the South Caucasus

14.10.2016 | Event News

World Health Summit – Day Three: A Call to Action

12.10.2016 | Event News

Latest News

First results of NSTX-U research operations

26.10.2016 | Physics and Astronomy

UCI and NASA document accelerated glacier melting in West Antarctica

26.10.2016 | Earth Sciences

Ice shelf vibrations cause unusual waves in Antarctic atmosphere

25.10.2016 | Earth Sciences

More VideoLinks >>>