Magnetic Brain Stimulation May Help Smokers Quit
November 14, 2013
The Philadelphia Inquirer — When willpower doesn’t work, smokers who want to quit may have a new tool: magnetic brain stimulation.
A BGU study of 115 smokers found that 13 sessions of the treatment over three weeks helped some heavy smokers quit for as long as six months. The study’s participants smoked at least a pack a day and had failed at least two previous attempts to quit.
This noninvasive technique, called repeated high-frequency transcranial magnetic stimulation, sends electric impulses to the brain. It is sometimes used to treat depression.
“Using noninvasive stimulation can reduce nicotine craving and smoking,” says lead researcher Prof. Abraham Zangen of BGU’s Department of Life Sciences.
For the treatments, participants wear a helmet fitted with coils that deliver magnetic stimulation to the areas of the brain – the prefrontal cortex and the insula – associated with nicotine addiction.
“If you stimulate regions in the brain that are associated with craving for drugs, you can change the circuitry in the brain that mediates this dependence and eventually reduce smoking,” says Prof. Zangen. “And many of those treated stop smoking.”