A research study found that stimulating the brain using magnetic currents can significantly reduce a smoker’s urge to light up.
During the study, which was conducted in Israel, researchers developed a special helmet-like device for deep stimulation of specific parts of the brain. The device sends magnetic currents to the brain that stimulate the nervous system while the patients are entirely conscious.
The study was led by Prof. Abraham Zangen, head of the Brain and Behavior Laboratory at the department of Human Sciences at Ben Gurion University, along with Dr. Limor Dinur Klein from Tel Aviv University and Prof. Moshe Kotler, head of the Psychiatric Union in Israel.
Prof. Zangen said: “This is just the interim analysis but it is promising. Forty percent of the subjects in this subgroup quit smoking and we will continue the research in the near future.” According to Zangen, the combination of stimulation at high frequency and cue presentation—providing a signal that reminds the person of something to provoke the craving circuitry in the brain—causes a significant reduction in cigarette consumption.
15 minute sessions
The participants in the study all smoked at least 20 cigarettes per day and all already attempted to quit smoking in the past using other methods. They were invited for 13 sessions of 15 minutes each, over a period of three weeks.
“We decided to conduct the research because addiction is a major health problem. I have been studying the basic mechanisms of addiction in animals for 10 years and identified neurochemical alterations in specific brain regions associated with the development of addiction. Moreover, we found that electrical stimulation for cocaine addiction of specific brain regions in animals can reduce drug-seeking and drug-taking behavior.”
Zangen says that the study performed on animals was based on implanted electrodes and required translation to human application. The result was the special helmet that was developed for non-surgical stimulation of deep brain regions in humans. “We started with nicotine addiction because it is more common and easier to recruit participants for the initial study,” he says.
The researchers have already completed one study using standard transcranial magnetic stimulation coils in smokers. Its initial results, which were published in the journal Addiction in 2009, were not satisfactory. According to Zangen, many people started smoking less, but none of them really quit smoking completely.
“The current study utilizes the special electromagnetic coils for deeper stimulation of the relevant brain regions associated with the craving circuitry in the brain. The results are much more promising,” he says.
He adds: “The previous technology, termed ‘standard TMS’, can induce effective fields up to one to two centimeters in the brain, while the new technology we have developed, termed ‘deep TMS’, can induce effective fields up to five centimeters in the brain.”
During the treatment, some participants experienced moderate headaches, especially in the first sessions. But Zangen assures that this is transient, and lasts only up to a half hour after the treatment.
According to Zangen, this research is a breakthrough that can affect other fields too.
The study shows that multiple sessions of electromagnetic stimulation of the brain can make long-term changes in neural networks that mediate pathological behavior. Moreover, it shows that psychological activation of the relevant circuitry in the brain combined with the physical electromagnetic stimulation provides better results.
Editor: Lara C.
Like elephant health & wellness on Facebook.
hot on elephant
The story behind the Elephant-headed God. 456 shares September’s Black Moon: The Rare, Powerful, Feminine Goddess Lilith. 73,636 shares Will & Grace are Back after 10 years & it’s the Funniest 10 minutes of Election Commentary Ever. 17,934 shares October Energy Forecast: Prepare for Limitless, Unconditional Love. 7,895 shares The Fourth Kind of Love. 2,747 shares How Open-Hearted Men can Show Up for Strong, Independent Women. 3,686 shares What Teens need from their Parents. (Hint: It’s not Grounding & Punishment.) 2,069 shares I am Who I am Thanks to You—The 5 Most Important People we Meet in Life. 2,128 shares 10 Good Reasons Not to Contact your Ex. 944 shares Nine Reasons to Love a Libra & One Secret they Keep. 1,478 share