Smoking Scenes in Movies Trigger Brain Activity in Smokers

Assistant Professor Sonya Dal Cin has contributed to a new study, “Spontaneous Action Representation in Smokers when Watching Movie Characters Smoke”  (Dylan D. Wagner, Sonya Dal Cin, James D. Sargent, William M. Kelley, and Todd F. Heatherton) which has identified links between the viewing of smoking in movies to activity in the brains of smokers.  Using magnetic resonance imaging, the brain activity of the participants (17 smokers and 17 non-smokers) was measured during a viewing of the popular film, Matchstick Men.

When smokers viewed a scene that included smoking, they showed greater activity in those parts of the brain involved in perception and in the co-ordination of actions—the areas known to interpret and plan hand movements—as though they, too, were about to light a cigarette.

This study has received a fair deal of buzz as Hollywood is often seen as glorifying smoking behavior. Read more about the study and its potential impacts in these other publications: The Economist, CNN, Time, Fox News, Bloomberg Business Week, The Huffington Post, and The Guardian.

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