The Cognitive Conflict of Quitting Smoking

- New brain scans reveal a raging battle in the brain of smokers trying to quit, says a U.S. study.

The findings, published online in the journal Neuropsychopharmacology, found certain regions of the brain that control dependence on nicotine light up when a smoker takes a puff.

One region, the thalamus, may control symptoms of withdrawal, which stem from the inability to focus thoughts and the feeling of being overwhelmed, according to lead study investigator Jed E. Rose, director of the Duke Center for Nicotine and Smoking Cessation Research at Duke University Medical Center in Durham.

Another region of the brain that lights up is the pleasure system of the brain, and the third part deals with cognitive functions such as conflict, self-regulation, decision-making and emotion.

These insights into the brain may explain why 70 percent of smokers who say they want to quit fail and why people try to quit several times before they are successful, according to Rose.

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