A new study by Adrianna Mendrek of the University of Montreal shows that a woman’s menstrual cycle seems to have an effect on nicotine cravings. Mendrek, who conducted the study with Institut universitaire en santé mentale de Montréal, believes that as a result of the study it may be easier for women to overcome abstinence-related withdrawal symptoms after the ovulation, or mid-luteal, phase when the levels of oestrogen and progesterone are elevated. Mendrek says, “Taking the menstrual cycle into consideration could help women to stop smoking.”

According to a Universite de Montreal news release, the researchers worked with 34 men and women who each smoke more than 15 cigarettes a day. Participants filled out questionnaires and underwent MRI brain scans, which were taken while they looked at either neutral pictures or pictures designed to make them want to smoke. The female participants were scanned twice, once at the beginning of the follicular phase of their menstrual cycle and again at the mid-luteal phase. Levels of oestrogene and progesterone were also measured.

The two objectives of the researchers included checking to see if gender differences exist in the neuronal circuits linked to craving and also determining if the electrocortical changes linked with nicotine withdrawal fluctuate in tandem with  hormone variations. The results of the study showed no significant differences between the men and women as far as neuronal circuits. However, the Universite de Montreal news release notes that the activation patterns for the females varied considerably over their menstrual cycle.

Mendrek hopes her conclusions will encourage researchers to pay greater attention to biology when designing research protocols, as indicated on the Universite de Montreal news release. Mendrek states, “A greater knowledge of the neurobiological mechanisms governing addiction should enable us to better target treatment according to the smokers profile.”

Source: Universite de Montreal