Anticipation Heightens Smokers’ Desire

Posted on May 12, 2006 

Anticipation Heightens Smokers’ Desire

When smokers anticipate having a cigarette in the near future, their brains are affected more by external clues — such seeing someone else smoke — than by their level of craving or how long they’ve gone without a cigarette, a new study finds.

Canadian researchers used functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to scan the brains of 20 smokers who were divided into two groups: expectant (they could smoke immediately after the test), and non-expectant (they could smoke only four hours after the test).

In smokers who anticipated having a cigarette immediately after the test, these videos activated areas of the brain associated with arousal, attention, and cognitive control. In contrast, smokers who had to wait four hours to have a cigarette showed almost no brain response to the visual smoking cues, even if their craving to smoke was a strong as the expectant smokers.

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