A new study published in the Journal of Neuroscience reported that people who watch actors smoke are more likely to light up and puff a few cigarette sticks.
Todd Heatherington of Dartmouth spearheaded a research which tested a group of 17 right-handed individuals who smoke and another batch of 17 right-handed non-smokers while they watched Matchstick Men, a film containing many scenes involving smoking.
The participants were not informed that the study focused on smoking behavior.
The researchers were able to identify smoking urges on the participants who smoke when they watch the actors smoke on screen. This was indicated when the brain regions which involve planning and coordinating hand actions lit up for the viewers who smoke after seeing the actors puff the nicotine-rich stick. Only the region for the hand which smokers usually use to have a smoke indicated an activity on the test.
The finding suggests the unconscious and involuntary activation of mirror neurons in smokers. Mirror neuron circuits are said to be activated not only when a person performs an action but also when they see others do so, prompting them to follow or “mirror” the actions they witnessed.