There’s Something Special About People Who Quit Smoking

Photographed by Jessica Nash.
There are few things harder to quit than smoking. And, according to new research, there seems to be something pretty special about the brains of people who actually kick the habit. In a study published this week in the journal Neuropsychopharmacology, researchers looked at the brain activity of 85 smokers a month before their intended quit date. Then, they followed up with the participants about their smoking behaviors for another 10 weeks.  By the end of the study, 41 participants had relapsed; 44 had not. The brain scans revealed that those who managed to stay quit had some things in common: In particular, they showed better connectivity between the brain's insula — an area involved in addiction — and the sensorimotor cortex, which is responsible for planning out and executing our voluntary movements. And, most interestingly, these differences were evident in the scans taken 30 days before the participants' quit dates.  "Simply put, the insula is sending messages to other parts of the brain that then make the decision to pick up a cigarette or not," said Merideth Addicott, PhD, the study's lead author, in a press release. And, if those messages are strong, you're more likely to be able to make the difficult (but healthy) decision not to smoke. Having this kind of self-control has even been linked to success in other areas, including how well you do at work. So, if you can quit smoking, you've got the right stuff to do pretty much anything you set your mind to. And, if you need some help getting started, we've got your back.

More from Mind

R29 Original Series