Monday, February 16, 2004


If you’re easy to anger, you might have a brain especially susceptible to nicotine.

Scientists using powerful scanners have documented nicotine triggering dramatic bursts of activity in certain brain areas — but only in people prone to anger and aggression, not more cheerful, relaxed types.

Researchers made the discovery when studying people wearing nicotine patches. Intriguingly, the nicotine jazzed up the brains of not just smokers who are aggressive, but of nonsmokers, too — and at very low doses.

It is the first biological evidence that people with certain personality traits are more likely to get hooked on smoking if they experiment with cigarettes.

And it might help explain why it is so much easier for some people to kick the addiction than others, says psychiatrist Steven Potkin of the University of California at Irvine, who led the study.

It is almost, he says, as if some people are born to smoke.

Other scientists won’t make that leap, noting that it is not clear how much of a person’s personality is genetic and how much stems from childhood environments. Smoking habits, too, can depend greatly on whether people grew up surrounded by smokers and the social and cultural conditions under which they try to quit.

Still, “we’re looking for the variety of things that could make people likely to smoke, and this could be one of them,” says William Corrigall of the National Institute on Drug Abuse.

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