Resolved to quit smoking? Brain scans reveal likely success

Brain scans showing neural reactions to pro-health messages can predict if you’ll keep that resolution to quit smoking more accurately than you yourself can. That’s according to a study published recently in Health Psychology, a peer-reviewed journal.

“We targeted squit smoking signmokers who were already taking action to quit,” says Emily Falk, the lead author of the study and director of the Communication Neuroscience Laboratory at ISR and the U-M Department of Communication Studies. “And we found that neural activity can predict behavior change, above and beyond people’s own assessment of how likely they are to succeed.“

“These results bring us one step closer to the ability to use functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to select the messages that are most likely to affect behavior change both at the individual and population levels. 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. Falk and colleagues Matthew Lieberman, Elliot Berkman, and Danielle Whalen tested 28 heavy smokers, recruited from an anti-smoking program.

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