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Study: Hostile people may be 'born to smoke'

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Mayo Clinic
University of California

WASHINGTON (Reuters) -- People with hostile or aggressive personality traits may have genetic tendencies that make them "born to smoke," a small study suggests.

Brain imaging studies suggest that the same genetic variations that give people hostile personality traits may also make them more likely to become addicted to nicotine, the team at the University of California Irvine reported.

"We call this brain response a 'born to smoke' pattern," Dr. Steven Potkin, a professor of psychiatry and a brain imaging specialist who led the study, said in a statement.

Potkin's team was following up on evidence suggesting that people with hostile personality traits are more likely to become addicted to cigarettes and have trouble kicking the habit.

Writing in the journal Cognitive Brain Research, Potkin and colleagues said they tested 86 volunteers by giving them standard psychiatric personality exams and separating them into two groups -- those with higher tendencies to anger, aggression and anxiety, and those with low-hostility traits.

Both groups included smokers and nonsmokers.

They were given nicotine patches to wear and their brains were imaged using positron emission tomography, or PET scans.

The scans showed no metabolic changes in the brain cells of the low-hostility volunteers but the response of the "hostile" personalities was clear, Potkin said.

And the hostile smokers needed a higher dose of nicotine to get the same response that nonsmokers had to the nicotine patch -- suggesting they had become habituated to nicotine.

"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," Potkin said.

"In turn, this might also help explain why other people have no compelling drive to smoke or can quit smoking with relative ease," he added.

Copyright 2004 Reuters. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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