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Anti-smoking ads with strong arguments, not flashy editing, trigger part of brain involving behavior change
Date:4/23/2013

PHILADELPHIA Researchers from the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania have shown that an area of the brain that initiates behavioral changes had greater activation in smokers who watched anti-smoking ads with strong arguments versus those with weaker ones, and irrespective of flashy elements, like bright and rapidly changing scenes, loud sounds and unexpected scenario twists. Those smokers also had significantly less nicotine metabolites in their urine when tested a month after viewing those ads, the team reports in a new study published online April 23 in the Journal of Neuroscience.

This is the first time research has shown an association between cognition and brain activity in response to content and format in televised ads and behavior.

In a study of 71 non-treatment-seeking smokers recruited from the Philadelphia area, the team, led by Daniel D. Langleben, M.D., a psychiatrist in the Center for Studies of Addiction at Penn Medicine, identified key brain regions engaged in the processing of persuasive communications using fMRI, or functional magnetic resonance imaging. They found that a part of the brain involved in future behavioral changesknown as the dorsomedial prefrontal cortex (dMPFC)had greater activation when smokers watched an anti-smoking ad with a strong argument versus a weak one.

One month after subjects watched the ads, the researchers sampled smokers' urine cotinine levels (metabolite of nicotine) and found that those who watched the strong ads had significantly less cotinine in their urine compared to their baseline versus those who watched weaker ads.

Even ads riddled with attention-grabbing tactics, the research suggests, are not effective at reducing tobacco intake unless their arguments are strong. However, ads with flashy editing and strong arguments, for example, produced better recognition.

"We investigated the two major dimensions of any piece of media, c
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Contact: Steve Graff
stephen.graff@uphs.upenn.edu
215-349-5653
University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine
Source:Eurekalert

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