Smokers who’d like to quit should not be buying expensive nicotine patches or gum, but get themselves a brain scan instead. According to a study recently published in Nature Neuroscience, brain scans showing neural reactions to pro-health messages can predict if you’ll keep that resolution to quit smoking.
During the research, the participants’ brain activity was measured whilst having them listen to personal messages put together based on individual interviews, such as ‘your sister will help you quit smoking’ or ‘you are afraid you’ll start smoking again once you get angry or upset.’ After the experiment, the participants had to quit smoking. Four months later, they were checked up on. As in turned out, the ones who had shown the most brain activity while hearing the messages, were more likely to stay on the wagon.
According to leading author Hannah Faye Chua, the results can bring us one step closer to the ability to use functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), in order to select the messages that are most likely to affect behaviour change. “If you can imagine that people who create fast food or who sell cigarettes are doing this in an effort to convey a stronger message, we really need to better understand the ways our health messages can be more effective.”
Chua HF, Ho SS, Jasinska AJ, Polk TA, Welsh RC, Liberzon I, & Strecher VJ (2011). Self-related neural response to tailored smoking-cessation messages predicts quitting. Nature neuroscience, 14 (4), 426-7 PMID: 21358641