Vol. 10, No. 2, 2004 Page 6


People who are hostile may be "born to smoke," according to a recent study.

James H. Fallon and colleagues gave 86 subjects personality exams, and divided them into two groups—hostile people characterized by anger, aggression, and anxiety; and low-hostility control subjects. Both groups included smokers and non-smokers.

The researchers then gave subjects either a placebo or a nicotine patch, using two different strengths of nicotine patch, and performed PET scans to see if the nicotine caused a response in subjects' brains.

Low-hostility subjects showed no metabolic changes, but in the high- hostility group, nicotine caused "dramatic metabolic changes" on both sides of the brain. Hostile non-smokers responded to both nicotine patches, while hostile smokers responded only to the higher-dose patch, probably because they were habituated to nicotine. Further analysis showed that the most significant changes occurred in the the most hostile subjects. Changes occurred when subjects performed a task measuring aggression, but not when they performed a sustained-attention task.

Says study co-author Steven Potkin, "Based on these dramatic brain responses to nicotine, if you have hostile, aggressive personality traits, in all likelihood you have a predisposition to cigarette addiction without ever having even touched a cigarette."


"Hostility differentiates the brain metabolic effects of nicotine," J. H. Fallon, D. B. Keator, J. Mbogori, J. Turner, and S. G. Potkin, Cognitive Brain Research, Vol. 18, No. 2, January 2004, 142-8. Address: S. G. Potkin, Dept. of Anatomy and Neurobiology, UC Irvine, BIRN-RP, 5251 California, Suite 240, Irvine, CA 92697.

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"Hostile people may be 'born to smoke': study," Reuters, February 13, 2004.

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