This article was first published by The Times of Israel and was re-posted with permission.
Addictions are hard to kick. Just ask all cigarette smokers who keep puffing away despite the boatload of evidence that they are killing themselves.
Now, new research being conducted in Israel shows that addictions work differently in women and men. A study being conducted largely in Israel by Evan Morris, an associate professor of Radiology, Biomedical Engineering, and Psychiatry at Yale University, shows this clearly. In fact, Morris and his students have even made a movie out of it.
“Our dopamine movies show the effect of nicotine on the dopamine levels in the body, and those movies – which essentially show how the brain reacts when the chemical is released – show clearly that there is a difference in brain activity for men and women who smoke.”
Those findings are interesting, Morris told The Times of Israel, but the real point is to show “how short-term bursts of brain activity are prompted by chemical changes. This could have all sorts of implications for treating symptoms like PTSD and other stress-induced conditions, where there can be radical changes in brain activity for short periods of time.”
Morris is a world-renowned expert on Positron Emission Tomography (PET) imaging using tracer kinetic modeling to create functional images of the brain. He is in Israel on a Fulbright exchange program scholarship, which each year brings dozens of American researchers to Israel to work on innovative medical and technology projects in the Startup Nation for a year, while sending Israeli researchers to work in the US for the same amount of time.
“With PET, you can see how the brain changes – based on mathematical formulas – in response to induced changes,” said Morris. “One of the most difficult challenges facing researchers is developing models of short-term changes – changes in the brain that pass quickly, perhaps in just a few minutes or so.”
It’s clear that with a supercharged emotion taking over the body – anger, ecstasy, or anything in between – there are changes to the brain, “but generally researchers have been able to capture only changes that linger, with the imaging of the short-term changes unattainable.”
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