The study started after a patient who had smoked 40 cigarettes a day before having had a stroke that damaged his insula quit smoking immediately explaining he “forgot the urge to smoke”.
The researchers then decided to go through a database of stroke patients held by the University of Iowa and investigate the incidence. They found 69 people who smoked before suffering stroke. Nineteen of them had damaged insulas and thirteen of them quit smoking without any difficulties.
This finding suggests possibility that nicotine addiction could be killed by manipulating the insula without causing any brain damage.
There are different possible methods that could be used to deactivate insula. It could be done by drugs, magnetic fields or deep brain stimulation by using electrodes already used in treating Parkinson’s disease and depression.
The insula is situated in the centre of the brain and is thought to be responsible for translating information from other parts of the body into feelings such as hunger, pain or cravings for a drug. This is why extensive research is needed to realize how exactly the insula affects smoking and other addictions in order not to disrupt other activities.
That is interesting. Tobacco smoking is such a trap, for countless numbers of people. I started smoking when I was 16, and stayed with it for over 20 years despite numerous quit attempts. I finally did it with the help of an internet support group for people who quit smoking, and also used nicotine patches for a while. It took me at least three months to feel free of the addiction, psychologically, and I still sometimes crave cigarettes more than four years after stopping, when something like someone dying happens. If there could be an easier way to quit, that would help so many people. I hope such a drug or magnetic stimulation becomes a reality.