Brain Scans Help Determine a Smoker's Odds of Quitting

Kicking the habit can be tough. Just take a look at the latest statistics from the American Cancer Society.

According to the society’s website, more than 70 percent of smokers say they want to quit, but only 4 to 7 percent of people actually succeed when trying to do it on their own.

Now, U.S. researchers have found a way to predict just how successful a smoker will be at quitting — and it involves looking at their brain, Agence –France Presse reported.

The researchers performed MRI scans on 28 heavy smokers to look for activity in the region of the brain associated with behavior change. While the scans were being performed, the smokers were asked to watch a series of commercials about quitting smoking.

After each commercial, the participants were asked to rate "how it affected their intention to quit, whether it increased their confidence about quitting, and how much they related to the message," the researchers explained.

And what they found is that smokers "who showed activity in the medial prefrontal cortex during the ads were significantly linked to reductions in smoking behavior" in the month that followed the study.

"What is exciting is that by knowing what is going on in someone's brain during the ads, we can do twice as well at predicting their future behavior, compared to if we only knew their self-reported estimate of how successful they would be or their intention to quit," said lead author Emily Falk. "It seems that our brain activity may provide information that introspection does not."

The study was funded by the National Institutes of Health and the National Science Foundation.

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