Brain scans ‘can predict smokers’ quitting success’

February 1st, 2011 - 3:05 pm ICT by ANI  

Washington, Feb 1 (ANI): Brain scans will now predict accurately how successful a smoker will be in kicking the butt.

A new research from the University of Michigan has suggested that brain scans showing neural reactions could predict behaviour change well beyond people’s own assessment of how likely they are to succeed.

Emily Falk, director of U-M’s Communication Neuroscience Laboratory, and her colleagues scanned the brain activity of 28 heavy smokers, recruited from an anti-smoking program, to investigate whether pro-health messages would have an impact on their ability to quit smoking.

For the study, functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) was used to monitor how participants responded to a series of television ads designed to help people quit smoking.

After seeing each ad, the test subjects rated how it affected their intention to quit, whether it increased their confidence about quitting, and how much they related to the message.

A month after the scan, the researchers contacted the participants to see how they were doing and to obtain biological verification of how much they were smoking, by assessing their CO levels.

Participants reported smoking an average of 5 cigarettes a day, compared with an average of 21 a day at the start of the study, and CO levels were consistent with these self-reports.

The researchers then compared the smokers’ behaviour change from the start to the end of the study with neural activity in a particular brain region that the team’s previous research had suggested is predictive of behaviour change - the medial prefrontal cortex.

Neural activity in this region of the brain was significantly linked to reductions in smoking behaviour over the month following the scan, predicting how successful people would be in reducing their smoking.

“These results bring us one step closer to the ability to use functional magnetic resonance imaging to select the messages that are most likely to affect behaviour change both at the individual and population levels,” said Falk.

“It seems that our brain activity may provide information that introspection does not,” she added.

The study is published in the forthcoming issue of Health Psychology. (ANI)

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