Scientists have found that targeting a specific brain region may help smokers kick the butt. Researchers at the University of Massachusetts Medical School (UMMS) have identified the region of the brain responsible for symptoms of nicotine withdrawal, such as headache and anxiety, that keep smokers from quitting.
They found that physical nicotine withdrawal symptoms are triggered by activation of GABAergic neurons (neurons that secrete GABA, the brain's predominant inhibitoryneurotransmitter), in the interpeduncular nucleus.
Interpeduncular nucleus is an area deep in the midbrain that has recently been shown to be involved in nicotine intake. "We were surprised to find that one population of neurons within a single brain region could actually control physical nicotine withdrawal behaviours," said Andrew R Tapper from the Brudnick Neuropsychiatric Research Institute at UMMS.
"Most of the work in the field has been focused on the immediate effects of nicotine, the addictive component in tobacco smoke, on reward circuits in the brain," Tapper said.