The shocking images of smokers' lungs and tumors on cigarette packs hardly have any effect on the majority of addicts, according to a new research. 28 younger persons who had been smoking for quite a number of years and an equal number of non-smokers participated in the study. Each of the subjects was shown photos of happy, fearful and neutral faces while their brain activity was recorded.
The researchers were particularly interested in the amygdala – a structure the shape and size of an almond. "It is the brain's fear center," said Dr René Hurlemann, from the Bonn University Clinic. The amygdala was always active when the participants were shown fearful faces.
"Initially, there were no differences visible between smokers and non-smokers," reported Dr. Özgür Onur, the study's principal author and neurologist. "So, the processing of emotions in the brain worked in a similar manner in both groups."
However, when the smokers came off a 12-hour abstinence period, the picture changed. "After only a few hours of abstinence, the activity of the fear center was far lower, as compared to the earlier state," said Onur. "They simply were indifferent to images of fearful people."
"Apparently, they are mentally caught up in their addiction, resulting in a lowered receptivity for fear-inducing stimuli," said Onur."It seems that smokers need nicotine in order to maintain the normal function of their amygdala,” he added.