HealthDay News — Disturbing images on cigarette warning labels have a significant effect on smokers’ brains, according to a new study.
The researchers used functional MRI to monitor the brains of 19 smokers as they looked at 24 different health warning images.
Images with more emotional content showed things such as a diseased lung, rotting teeth, a corpse, and a man blowing smoke through a breathing hole in his neck. Less emotional images showed things such as an oxygen mask and a tombstone.
The images with more emotional content triggered greater activation in parts of the brain that register emotions such as fear and are linked to creating longer-term memories, the researchers reported in the journal Tobacco Control. These images also helped reduce the urge to smoke, they added.
Study principal investigator Daniel Langleben, MD, an associate professor of psychiatry at the Center for the Study of Addiction at the University of Pennsylvania, said, “This study shows that the more scary pictures reduce craving, which means you can’t separate scary from effective. The emotional effects and behavioral effects may be inseparable.”
Langleben DD, et al. Emotional reaction facilitates the brain and behavioural impact of graphic cigarette warning labels in smokers. Tob Control. 2015; doi:10.1136/tobaccocontrol-2014-051993