Brewer on WBUR: Mindfulness helps smokers quit

Radio Boston reports on new research into addiction and the brain

By Sandra Gray

UMass Medical School Communications

July 11, 2014

Judson Brewer, MD, PhDMindfulness researcher and addiction expert Judson Brewer, MD, PhD, explained the striking impact of mindfulness on people trying to quit smoking in a live interview with Meghna Chakrabarti on WBUR’s Radio Boston. The July 10 interview was a follow-up to the WBUR story “How Addiction Can Affect Brain Connections” that explored addiction neuroscience research underway by Dr. Brewer and other scientists at UMass Medical School.

“We’ve worked with alcohol and cocaine-dependent individuals and, most recently, with smokers,” said Brewer (at right), associate professor of medicine and psychiatry and director of research at the medical school’s Center for Mindfulness. “We found in a randomized controlled trial that mindfulness was twice as good as gold standard [smoking cessation] treatment in terms of abstinence: people quitting smoking, chemically verified four months later.”

Asked how non-biological addiction therapies like mindfulness meditation can change the brain, Brewer said, “It seems that in experienced meditators some of these regions [associated with the brain’s default mode network] get pretty quiet when they are meditating. There’s an activity change in the brain. There’s a lot more work to be done, but it’s probably letting go of some of these pathways that are laid down each time someone uses.”

Next on tap for Brewer’s research: he just received a grant from the National Cancer Institute for a large randomized controlled study to determine if mobile mindfulness training can help smokers quit.

Listen to the full Boston Radio segment, which also includes highlights from WBUR’s Deborah Becker on her Commonhealth story.

Related link on UMassMedNow:
Addiction’s impact on the brain: WBUR reports on neuroscience research at UMMS