Smoking, eating and thinking: New research on the brain, hormones, and behavior

PITTSBURGH Certain hormones may make it more difficult for some to quit smoking, according to results of a study presented at the 6th International Congress of Neuroendocrinology (ICN 2006) in Pittsburgh June 19 22 at the David L. Lawrence Convention Center. Other research reported includes animal research indicating what may be responsible for that yen for sweets.

Following are summaries of the studies' findings and one giving perspective on the use of estrogen therapy for improving memory and brain power in women during menopause.

Hormones make it even harder for some to kick the habit If quitting smoking weren't already hard enough, researchers are now saying that for some, kicking the habit may be even more difficult due to changes in levels of certain stress hormones.

Prior studies led researchers to believe that cortisol, a stress hormone that can contribute to depression, may make quitting more of a challenge. However, a Yale University School of Medicine study has found that cortisol levels alone may not be as useful for predicting the ability to quit as the ratio of DHEA (another stress hormone) to cortisol. Indeed, research has shown that DHEA may protect the brain against some potential deleterious effects of cortisol. Participants who relapsed eight days after abstinence from cigarettes were more likely to have a drop in the ratio between DHEA and cortisol as measured in their plasma than smokers able to maintain abstinence. According to lead researcher Ann Rasmusson, M.D., director of the neuroendocrine laboratory in Yale's department of psychiatry, this finding indicates that the DHEA/cortisol ratio may prove to be a useful diagnostic tool for determining who is likely to have a more difficult time kicking the habit and also may serve as a potential target for smoking cessation treatment interventions.

One lump or two? Oxytocin influences a sweet tooth We all have weaknesses for certain kinds of food. Some of


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