Saturday, September 15, 2012
Smoking Mind Over Smoking Matter: Surprising New Study Shows Cigarette Cravings Result from Habit, Not Addiction
ScienceDaily (July 14, 2010) — Nicotine patches and gum are common -- and often ineffective -- ways of fighting cigarette cravings, as most smokers have discovered. Now a new study from Tel Aviv University shows why they're ineffective, and may provide the basis for more successful psychologically-based smoking cessation programs.
In the new study published in the Journal of Abnormal Psychology, Dr. Reuven Dar of Tel Aviv University's Department of Psychology found that the intensity of cravings for cigarettes had more to do with the psychosocial element of smoking than with the physiological effects of nicotine as an addictive chemical.
"These findings might not be popular with advocates of the nicotine addiction theory, because they undermine the physiological role of nicotine and emphasize mind over matter when it comes to smoking," Dr. Dar says. He hopes this research will help clinicians and health authorities develop more successful smoking cessation programs than those utilizing expensive nicotine patches or gum.
Up in the air
Dr. Dar and his colleagues' conclusions are based on two landmark studies. In the most recent study, he and his colleagues monitored the smoking behavior and craving levels of in-flight attendants, both women and men, who worked at the Israeli airline El Al. Each participant was monitored during two flights -- a long flight of 10 to 13 hours in duration, from Tel Aviv to New York, for example; and a two-hop shorter trip from Israel to Europe and back, each leg lasting three to five hours. Using a questionnaire, he sampled craving levels of the attendants throughout the duration of their flights.
Dr. Dar and his colleagues found that the duration of the flight had no significant impact on craving levels, which were similar for short and long flights. Moreover, craving levels at the end of each short flight were much higher those at the end of the long flight, demonstrating that cravings increased in anticipation of the flight landing, whatever the flight's total duration. He concluded that the craving effect is produced by psychological cues rather than by the physiological effects of nicotine deprivation.
No smoking on the Sabbath
In an earlier 2005 study, Dr. Dar examined smokers who were religious Jews, forbidden by their religion to smoke on the Sabbath. He asked them about their smoking cravings on three separate days: the Sabbath, a regular weekday, and a weekday on which they'd been asked to abstain. Participants were interviewed at the end of each day about their craving levels during that day.
What Dr. Dar found is that cravings were very low on the morning of the Sabbath, when the smoker knew he would not be able to smoke for at least 10 hours. Craving levels gradually increased at the end of the Sabbath, when participants anticipated the first post-Sabbath cigarette. Craving levels on the weekday on which these people smoked as much as they wanted were just as high as on the day they abstained, showing that craving has little to do with nicotine deprivation.
Dr. Dar's studies conclude that nicotine is not addictive as physiological addictions are usually defined. While nicotine does have a physiological role in increasing cognitive abilities such as attention and memory, it's not an addictive substance like heroin, which creates true systemic and biologically-based withdrawal symptoms in the body of the user, he says.
Dr. Dar believes that people who smoke do so for short-term benefits like oral gratification, sensory pleasure and social camaraderie. Once the habit is established, people continue to smoke in response to cues and in situations that become associated with smoking. Dr. Dar believes that understanding smoking as a habit, not an addiction, will facilitate treatment. Smoking cessation techniques should emphasize the psychological and behavioral aspects of the habit and not the biological aspects, he suggests.
American Friends of Tel Aviv University (2010, July 14). Smoking mind over smoking matter: Surprising new study shows cigarette cravings result from habit, not addiction. ScienceDaily. Retrieved September 15, 2012, from http://www.sciencedaily.com /releases/2010/07/100713144920.htm
Evidence for the Existence of a Hypnotic State? Key May Be in the Glazed Staring Eyes, Researchers Suggest
ScienceDaily (Oct. 25, 2011) — A multidisciplinary group of researchers from Finland (University of Turku and Aalto University) and Sweden (University of Skövde) has found that the strange stare of patients under hypnosis may be a key that can eventually lead to a solution to a long debate about the existence of a hypnotic state.
One of the most widely known features of a hypnotized person in the popular culture is a glazed, wide-open look in the eyes. Paradoxically, this sign has not been considered to have any major importance among researchers and has never been studied in any detail, probably due to the fact that it can be seen in only some hypnotized people.
Published in the online journal PLoS ONE, the study was done with a very highly hypnotizable participant who can be hypnotized and dehypnotized by just using a one-word cue. The change between hypnotic state and normal state can thus be varied in seconds.
The researchers used high-resolution eye-tracking methodology and presented a set of well-established oculomotor tasks that trigger automatic eye behavior. They found the glazed stare was accompanied by objectively measurable changes in automatic, reflexive eye behavior that could not be imitated by non-hypnotized participants.
In the field of hypnosis research this result means that hypnosis can no longer be regarded as mental imagery that takes place during a totally normal waking state of consciousness. On the other hand, the result may have wider consequences for psychology and cognitive neuroscience, since it provides the first evidence of the existence of a conscious state in humans that has previously not been scientifically confirmed.
Hypnosis has had a long and controversial history in psychology, psychiatry and neurology. For over 100 years researchers have debated if a special hypnotic state exists or whether it is just about using cognitive strategies and mental imagery in a normal waking state. So far, a hypnotic state has never been convincingly demonstrated, and therefore, many researchers regard the hypnotic state to be just a popular myth in psychology.
The above story is reprinted from materials provided by Suomen Akatemia (Academy of Finland), via AlphaGalileo.
1. Sakari Kallio, Jukka Hyönä, Antti Revonsuo, Pilleriin Sikka, Lauri Nummenmaa. The Existence of a Hypnotic State Revealed by Eye Movements. PLoS ONE, 2011; 6 (10): e26374 DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0026374
ScienceDaily (Dec. 2, 2011) — Scientists at the University of Hull have found that some people have the ability to hallucinate colors at will -- even without the help of hypnosis.
The study, published this week in the journal Consciousness and Cognition, was carried out in the Department of Psychology at the University of Hull. It focused on a group of people that had shown themselves to be 'highly suggestible' in hypnosis.
The subjects were asked to look at a series of monochrome patterns and to see color in them. They were tested under hypnosis and without hypnosis and both times reported that they were able to see colors.
Individuals' reactions to the patterns were also captured using an MRI scanner, which enabled the researchers to monitor differences in brain activity between the suggestible and non-suggestible subjects. The results of the research, showed significant changes in brain activity in areas of the brain responsible for visual perception among the suggestible subjects only.
Professor Giuliana Mazzoni, lead researcher on the project says: "These are very talented people. They can change their perception and experience of the world in ways that the rest of us cannot."
The ability to change experience at will can be very useful. Research has shown that hypnotic suggestions can be used to block pain and increase the effectiveness of psychotherapy.
It has always been assumed that hypnosis was needed for these effects to occur, but the new study suggests that this is not true. Although hypnosis does seem to heighten the subjects' ability to see color, the suggestible subjects were also able to see colors and change their brain activity even without the help of hypnosis.
The MRI scans also showed clearly that although it was not necessary for the subjects to be under hypnosis to be able to perceive colors in the tests, it was evident that hypnosis increased the ability of the subjects to experience these effects.
Dr William McGeown, who also contributed to the study, says: "Many people are afraid of hypnosis, although it appears to be very effective in helping with certain medical interventions, particularly pain control. The work we have been doing shows that certain people may benefit from suggestion without the need for hypnosis."
The study, which was partially funded by the BBC, used a control group formed of less suggestible people, or people less likely to respond to hypnosis. It was found that this group of people were not able to hallucinate color and, again, these reported results were supported by MRI scans.