researchers discover how to stop tobacco addiction

THE ESSENTIAL

  • In the United States, substance use disorders are one of the leading causes of death among young people.
  • The stroke generates lesions in the brain, related to the obstruction or the rupture of a blood vessel.
  • Transcranial magnetic stimulation sends magnetic impulses into the brain.

Around 150,000 strokes occur each year in France. According to the Foundation for Stroke Research, 60% of stroke victims retain more or less significant neurological sequelae: motor deficit, language disorders, sensory or visual disorders. Despite this, some people find a “profit” of this accident: they manage to quit smoking suddenly. These cases have interested researchers at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, located in Boston. They found that the cerebral lesions, generated by the AVC, make it possible to stop the addiction. Their results are published in Nature Medicine.

Lesions to target

The authors used data from two cohorts of nicotine-dependent patients who subsequently suffered brain damage, usually following a stroke. They compared lesions in patients who were unable to quit smoking with lesions that resulted in remission from tobacco addiction. Next, they mapped these lesions into the overall brain circuitry. The participants smoked daily and were 56 years old, on average.

The study authors found that the lesions that led to smoking cessation corresponded to a specific brain circuit. Comparing this data to another study on lesions associated with a reduced risk of alcoholism, they noticed that it was the same brain circuit. According to them, this means that there could be a specific neural pathway, to be targeted to interrupt the addiction, whatever the substance.

A promising lead

By looking beyond particular brain regions and looking instead at the overall brain circuitry, we have found targets for addiction remission and look forward to testing them in clinical trials.“, rejoices Michael Fox, co-author of the study and researcher in the department of neurology at Brigham. “Although our findings point to therapeutic targets for addiction, we need to test these targets in randomized clinical trials..”

Deep brain stimulation, called transcranial magnetic stimulation, is already used to fight alcohol addiction. Authorized in the United States, it is still underdeveloped in France. In 2021, the Dijon CHU addiction service launched a recruitment campaign to test this method on different addictions.

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