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.Publication:
Johannes Seiler | idw
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This is a joint press release of University Muenster and Heidelberg as well as the GSI Helmholtzzentrum für Schwerionenforschung in Darmstadt.
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Thin-film solar cells made of crystalline silicon are inexpensive and achieve efficiencies of a good 14 percent. However, they could do even better if their shiny surfaces reflected less light. A team led by Prof. Christiane Becker from the Helmholtz-Zentrum Berlin (HZB) has now patented a sophisticated new solution to this problem.
"It is not enough simply to bring more light into the cell," says Christiane Becker. Such surface structures can even ultimately reduce the efficiency by...
A study in the journal Bulletin of Marine Science describes a new, blood-red species of octocoral found in Panama. The species in the genus Thesea was discovered in the threatened low-light reef environment on Hannibal Bank, 60 kilometers off mainland Pacific Panama, by researchers at the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute in Panama (STRI) and the Centro de Investigación en Ciencias del Mar y Limnología (CIMAR) at the University of Costa Rica.
Scientists established the new species, Thesea dalioi, by comparing its physical traits, such as branch thickness and the bright red colony color, with the...
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