New York: Addiction to cigarettes and other drugs may result from abnormal wiring in the brain`s frontal cortex, an area critical for self-control, scientists say.Researchers from the University of Southern California have uncovered some of the neural mechanisms involved in cigarette craving.Two brain areas, the orbitofrontal cortex and the prefrontal cortex, interact to turn cravings on or off depending on whether drugs are available, LiveScience reported.The researchers scanned the brains of 10 moderate-to-heavy smokers using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), which measures brain activity by changes in blood flow.The study measured activity while the participants watched video clips of people smoking as well as neutral videos.Before viewing, some subjects were told cigarettes would be available immediately after the experiment, while others were told they would have to wait 4 hours before lighting up.When participants watched the smoking videos, their brains showed increased activity in the medial orbitofrontal cortex, a brain area that assigns value to a behaviour.When the cigarettes were available immediately as opposed to hours later, smokers reported greater cravings and their brains showed more activity in the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex.The researchers hypothesise that this area modulates value. In other words, it turns up or down the "value level" of cigarettes (or other rewards) in the first area, the medial orbitofrontal cortex.
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