Are Some People Born Smokers?

Scientists have identified a brain pathway which, when defective, leads to an uncontrollable desire to smoke. The discovery may lead to new anti-smoking treatments.

A discovery that explains why some people cannot give up tobacco may lead to new anti-smoking treatments. Scientists have identified a brain pathway which, when defective, leads to an uncontrollable desire to smoke. It involves a component, or "subunit", of a receptor protein sensitive to nicotine. Normally, the pathway dampens down the urge to consume more nicotine when levels of the drug reach a critical level. But in some people the mechanism is faulty. The scientists, whose work is reported in the journal Nature, carried out tests on animals with a genetic mutation that leaves them without the receptor sub-unit.

Related Articles

Why the world needs death to prosper

Scientists have developed new ways of understanding how the biological forces of death drive important life processes.

Surprising Science
  • Researchers have found new ways on how decomposing plants and animals contribute to the life cycle.
  • After a freak mass herd death of 300 reindeer, scientists were able to study a wide range of the decomposition processes.
  • Promoting the necrobiome research will open up new areas of inquiry and even commerce.
Keep reading Show less

Why birds fly south for the winter—and more about bird migration

What do we see from watching birds move across the country?

E. Fleischer
Surprising Science
  • A total of eight billion birds migrate across the U.S. in the fall.
  • The birds who migrate to the tropics fair better than the birds who winter in the U.S.
  • Conservationists can arguably use these numbers to encourage the development of better habitats in the U.S., especially if temperatures begin to vary in the south.
Keep reading Show less

How does alcohol affect your brain?

Explore how alcohol affects your brain, from the first sip at the bar to life-long drinking habits.

(Photo by Angie Garrett/Wikimedia Commons)
Mind & Brain
  • Alcohol is the world's most popular drug and has been a part of human culture for at least 9,000 years.
  • Alcohol's effects on the brain range from temporarily limiting mental activity to sustained brain damage, depending on levels consumed and frequency of use.
  • Understanding how alcohol affects your brain can help you determine what drinking habits are best for you.
Keep reading Show less