The biological approach of addiction to smoking suggests that the initiation smoking behaviour is a result of the common reward pathway. When a cigarette is smoked the nicotine acts like acetylcholine and stimulates acetylcholine receptors in the brain – in turn the neural pathways are activated. Special neurons in the reward pathway releases dopamine from the Ventral-tegmental area which gives a sense of pleasure in the nucleus accumbens. It does this by connecting to regions of the brain that control memory and behaviour such as the pre-frontal cortex. This increases the likelihood of repeating the behaviour. This approach is supported by empirical research and can be tested scientifically e.g. by scanning brains of addicts when they smoke we can see the reward pathways in the brain that are activated as a result. The maintenance of smoking can also be explained through the VTA. The VTA sends neurons projections into the medial forebrain connecting the NA, amygdala and Pre-frontal cortex. Stimulation of these areas collectively produces pleasure and reinforcement of that behaviour- Making it more likely for a person to continue smoking. However this approach to smoking addiction is reductionist, since it attempts to explain a complex addiction by reducing it down to smaller parts e.g. explains it in terms of chemical dopamine activity when other factors such as stress may be an explanation of maintenance. However by regarding smoking addiction as a biological problem it creates the possibility it can be treated by various pharmacological methods. Relapse can also be explained by genetics, Xian et al carried out a twin study to test whether genetic factors contributes to failed attempts to quit. They found 54% of the risk for quit failures could be attributed to heritability. However there are methodological problems when it comes to twin studies such a small samples, this means there is low reliability.
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