Link Between Smoking Addiction And Schizophrenia Explored

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Smoking addiction in people with schizophrenia could be due to increased activation in the region involving the brain’s reward system, according to a new study conducted by the Institut universitaire en santé mentale de Montréal and the University of Montreal.

Researchers claim that significantly elevated activity in the ventro-medial prefrontal cortex (vmPFC) - where the brain’s reward center is located - could explain smoking addiction and the inability to quit in patients with schizophrenia.

"Smoking is a real problem for people with schizophrenia," said Stéphane Potvin, lead author of the study. "Their health and life expectancy are often undermined by this addiction, whose brain mechanisms were until now largely unknown.”

Brain activity

When presented with appealing cigarette images, researchers observed more neuronal activity in the vmPFC region of the brain in schizophrenic smokers compared to patients without the disease.

Schizophrenia smokers are 12 times more prone to dying from heart disease related to smoking than people without the disease who do not smoke cigarettes. Researchers believe that additional studies need to take place to determine if increased activity in the vmPFC is because of schizophrenia itself or possibly due to side effects of antipsychotics.

"These observations suggest that smoking has a greater rewarding effect in schizophrenia smokers,” said Potvin. “This corroborates the hypothesis already formulated of their increased vulnerability to this addiction but also demonstrates the great difficulty for them when it comes to quitting smoking. It is necessary to explore avenues that will help people in their efforts to free themselves from smoking"

Source: AlphaGalileo