Motivation and the Brain: Quitting Smoking

Motivation and the Brain: Quitting Smoking
Judith Prince
July 29, 2013
Dr. Donnetta Hawkins

Motivation and the Brain: Quitting Smoking
Smoking cigarettes is the leading cause of preventable deaths in the world, responsible for nearly a third of all cancer deaths and is a serious risk factor in cardiovascular and pulmonary diseases (Munafo & Johnstone, 2008).   Nicotine activates reward systems in the brain much the same way that other drugs, such as heroin, do while sharing the same effects of addiction such as sensitization, physical dependence, and euphoria (Baker, Brandon, & Chassin, 2004).   To understand better the addictive nature of nicotine in tobacco, it is important to understand the brain structures and functions involved in the behavior as well as intrinsic and extrinsic motivational factors that maintain the behavior.   Following these explanatory paragraphs will be a plan of action for the nicotine dependent individual to quit smoking and stay quit.
Brain Structures and Functions
In the addiction research field, most consider the brain the base of nicotine addiction (Clarks & Lancet, 1998).   The interaction of smoking cues and the anticipation of smoking leads to neural activity in regions of the brain known to take part in seeking and consuming the drug (McBride, Barrett, Kelly, Aw, & Dagher, 2006). The mesolimbic dopamine pathway is a neural pathway that is part of the reward system in the brain comprising itself of the ventral tegmental area (VTA), nucleus accumbens (NA), and the prefrontal cortex (McBride, Barrett, Kelly, Aw, & Dagher, 2006).   Nicotine attaches itself to and activating the nicotonic acetylcholine receptors (nAchRs) on dopamine neurons in the VTA, thus releasing dopamine in the NA acting as a reinforcer to the behavior of smoking (McBride, Barrett, Kelly, Aw, & Dagher, 2006).   This is similar to the reaction seen in other drugs and is an important feature of brain addiction mechanisms (Jarvis,...