It is of interest to those benefiting from gender-specific programs of the leading addiction rehab centers in North Carolina to read of the difference in brain activation during smoking between men and women. Yale University researchers drew upon a new method of brain imaging scan analysis for a recent study, which received funding from the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) and the National Institutes of Health (NIH) Office of Research on Women’s Health.
The researchers discovered that when nicotine-dependent men smoked, dopamine release occurred in the part of the brain (ventral striatum) linked to drug reinforcement. Meanwhile, in women, the dopamine response was found within the dorsal striatum, a part of the brain associated with habit formation.
According to the scientists, these findings support data previously published that showed men to generally be reinforced by the nicotine in cigarettes, while women, in comparison, were no less dependent on nicotine, but nonetheless tended to smoke instead for possibly mood or habit-related reasons. A better understanding of the effect that nicotine has on both male and female brains could be useful in the identification of effective gender-specific approaches to smoking cessation.
The full article detailing the study’s findings, entitled Sex Differences in the Brain’s Dopamine Signature of Cigarette Smoking, was published online in The Journal of Neuroscience on 10 December 2014. The research abstract commented, “Cigarette smoking is a major public health danger. Women and men smoke for different reasons and cessation treatments, such as the nicotine patch, are preferentially beneficial to men. The biological substrates of these sex differences are unknown.”
Adding that “Earlier PET studies reported conflicting findings but were each hampered by experimental and/or analytical limitations,” the study abstract said that the researchers’ new image analysis technique, Ip-ntPET had “been optimized for capturing brief (lasting only minutes) and highly localized dopaminergic events in dynamic PET data.
“Our main finding is that male smokers smoking in the PET scanner activate dopamine in the right ventral striatum during smoking but female smokers do not. This finding—men activating more ventrally than women—is consistent with the established notion that men smoke for the reinforcing drug effect of cigarettes whereas women smoke for other reasons, such as mood regulation and cue reactivity.”