If you have ever wondered what part of your brain makes you smoke cigarettes a lot, play games without stopping or do drugs, you can wonder no more. Scientists have finally identified this part of the brain: the insular cortex. The insular cortex accounts for your addictions and discovering it gives greater insight into this highly debated subject.
What is interesting is that, if this region is damaged in any way, people are more likely to quit smoking. At least this is what scientists have discovered. People who had the insular cortex afflicted could abstain from consuming nicotine for three months more than those who had it unafflicted.
Amir Abdolahi, the lead author who conducted the studies declared that people who had “this part of the mind broken” had their quitting rates increased by 50 percent and their “craving and withdrawal signs are far much less extreme”. This was identified by dividing patients into two different groups: those who had a stroke in the insular cortex and those who had a stroke in another part of the brain.
Abdolahi is quite sure that this discovery indicates the importance of the insular cortex in addiction. But even if this discovery were 100 percent accurate, the measures that could be taken to stop addiction would enter the ethical field. Would this mean that doctors could “work on” patients’ addiction by damaging a part of their brain? Of course, this could be done with the patient’s approval, but it might have severe consequences afterwards.
Smoking is still responsible for 1 out of 5 deaths in America, but this only depends on how we want to look at the situation. One 1 out of 5 deaths means that it is responsible for 20% of deaths, which can be interpreted as a very large amount, yet it is only one death. But is this death related to a consistent smoking rate, or an exaggerated dose overnight? There are a lot of variables that need to be looked into, thus we cannot clarify how severe smoking habits are. We can only admit that they are a threat.
If this discovery proves to be valid in time, then we might have reached a very important moment in medical history, a moment in which people might choose whether they want to quit their addictions or not. Still, more research needs to be done, but we can say for sure that we have come a long way.
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