August 6, 2013

Instead of lighting that smoke, meditate

Addiction to smoking and other substances involves a particular set of brain areas related to self-control, according to numerous research sourtces. For a new study, researchers wondered if a training approach designed to influence this addiction pathway could influence smokers to reduce their tobacco use — even if the smokers did not intend to do so.

It worked, according to a report published in Medical Press. The study found that smokers trained with a form of mindfulness meditation known as Integrative Body-Mind Training (IBMT) curtailed their smoking by 60 percent. Subjects in a control group that received a relaxation regimen showed no reduction.

Smoking researchers usually recruit people who want to quit smoking. This one was different. Instead, they sought volunteers who wanted to reduce stress and improve performance, the Medical Press report states. In actuality, the experiment was designed to explore how IBMT —previously shown to improve the self-control pathway related to addiction — would affect smokers. Among the volunteers were 27 smokers, mean age 21, who smoked on average 10 cigarettes a day; 15 of them (11 men) were placed in the experimental group receiving IBMT training for a total of five hours over two weeks.

A longtime practice in China, IBMT involves whole body relaxation, imagery, and mindfulness training led by a qualified coach. It has been under study for its potential impacts on a variety of stresses and related changes in the brain including function and structure.

“We found that participants who received IBMT training also experienced a significant decrease in their craving for cigarettes,” said Yi-Yuan Tang, a co-author of the study.

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