If you're a smoker who's trying to quit, you'll know that the sight of the smoking area where you used to share the latest gossip with your coworkers can trigger not just fun memories but also full-blown nicotine cravings.
Similarly, the sight and smell of food can trigger our appetite and make us want to eat more than we need. Neuroscientific studies have also shown that seeing an alcohol advertisement makes certain brain areas, such as the prefrontal cortex and the thalamus, hyperactive in people with alcohol use disorder.
Other studies in rodents have shown that environmental stimuli, or cues, such as certain buildings, objects, or places, can have strong effects on the brain, strengthening the memories that we associate with addictive substances.
However, are our brains defenseless when such cues face us, or are our "central processing units" constantly hard at work, successfully keeping these distractions at bay?
Until now, it was unclear how much control our brains can exert over these stimuli, but new research looks under the hood and finds that we are, indeed, continually fending off unwanted reward signals that can trigger cravings and addiction. We do this by using our brain's executive control processes.
Poppy Watson, from the University of New South Wales in Sydney, Australia, is the lead author of the new study, which appears in the journal Psychological Science.
Read the original article on medicalnewstoday.com.