Health: Helping Smokers Quit

The Story:

A team of scientists affiliated with Ben-Gurion University of the Negev has been testing a method of noninvasive brain stimulation that might be effective at helping heavy tobacco smokers quit.

Significance:

The method is known as repetitive Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (rTMS).

In 2003, the World Health Organization created a Global Treaty on Tobacco Control, intended to restrict the sale, advertising, and taxation of tobacco products in signature countries.  More than a hundred countries had signed on within a year.

Yet on the micro-level, getting a particular smoker to quit can be, as so many can attest, a hit-or-miss affair. There is little room for doubt that there is a great market for the sort of treatment on which Professor Abraham Zangen and his colleagues are working.

Their study was supported by BrainsWay, a Jerusalem based medical technology concern founded in 2003. Eight years ago, the FDA approved to use of a TMS device as a treatment for depressive disorders, but its use as a cure for cigarette addiction is a newer idea.

In Pill Form: 

The study found that three weeks of daily magnetic stimulation of the pertinent portions of the brain (the lateral prefrontal cortex and the insula) “is a safe and effective intervention that double the quit rate” among test subjects.

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