New research suggests that addicts experience dysfuntional decision-making—and it can be temporarily disabled.
Even the most rapacious smokers understand that cigarettes are bad for their health, and many would happily quit the habit, if only they could resist their cravings. So what's actually going on inside the brains of addicted individuals when they are weighing whether to light up? A new study, published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, identifies the specific brain regions and circuitry involved in exercising self-control, offering a glimpse into how and why people with addictions give in to craving-inducing triggers. Researchers suggest their findings could help pave the way to developing new therapies for various addictions. The study, co-authored by neurologist Alain Dagher of the Montreal Neurological Institute and Hospital at McGill University, zeroes in on two key areas of the brain: the medial orbitofrontal cortex, which is involved in assigning value to the potential choices people face, and the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex, which has the ability to increase or decrease that value signal depending on the situation.