How tanning changes the brain

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How tanning changes the brain

People who frequently use tanning beds experience changes in brain activity during their tanning sessions that mimic the patterns of drug addiction, new research shows. Scientists have suspected for some time that frequent exposure to ultraviolet radiation has the potential to become addictive, but the new research is the first to actually peer inside the brains of people as they lay in tanning beds.

What the researchers found was that several parts of the brain that play a role in addiction were activated when the subjects were exposed to UV rays. The findings, which appear in the coming issue of the journal Addiction Biologymay help explain why some people continue to tan often despite awareness about risks such as skin cancer, premature aging and wrinkles.

Bryon Adinoff, a professor of psychiatry at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center and an author of the study. Frequent users say they simply enjoy the way they look with darker skin.

But in recent years, scientists also began to wonder whether deliberately ignoring the potentially lethal side effects of regular UV exposure was a sign that the motivation for frequent tanners was more than skin-deep.

Could habitual tanning be an addictive behavior? A study in did show that a large proportion of sunbathers met the psychiatric definition of a substance abuse disorderbased on their answers to a variation of a test often used to help diagnose alcohol addiction.

Adinoff and his colleagues decided to go a step further.

How tanning changes the brain

They recruited a small group of people from tanning salons who said that they liked to tan at least three times a week and that maintaining a tan was important to them. The frequent tanners agreed to be injected with a radioisotope that allowed researchers to monitor how tanning affected their brain activity.

On one occasion, the study subjects experienced a normal tanning session. Brain images later showed that during regular tanning sessions, when the study subjects were exposed to UV rays, several key areas of the brain lighted up.

Among those areas were the dorsal striatum, the left anterior insula and part of the orbitofrontal cortex — all areas that have been implicated in addiction. But when the UV light was filtered out, those areas of the brain showed far less activity. The researchers also found evidence that the tanners appeared to know — on a subconscious level, at least — when they had undergone sham tanning sessions and not received their usual dose of UV rays.

The tanners, questioned after each session, expressed less desire to tan after the real sessions, indicating they had gotten their fill. But on days when the tanners were unknowingly deprived of the UV rays, their desire to tan after the session remained as high as it was before the session began.

Adinoff said the research suggests that some people appear addicted to tanning, a finding bolstered by the fact that many longtime tanners have a difficult time stopping or even just cutting back on tanning sessions.

He said the research was inspired by a colleague, based on her experiences with dermatology patients.The changes that occur in the brain are similar to that found in the brain of drug addicts. Like drugs, UV rays also have the potential to become addictive.

UV Rays Released from Tanning Beds can result in Addiction.

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How the Left and Right Brain Impacts Learning How the Left and Right Brain Impact Learning The brain is a very complex and amazing organ that consists of two very important halves.

The right hemisphere and the left hemisphere, both of these effect how we learn and process information. Aug 12,  · People who frequently use tanning beds experience changes in brain activity during their tanning sessions that mimic the patterns of drug addiction, new research shows.

Scientists have suspected for some time that frequent exposure to ultraviolet radiation has the potential to become addictive, but.

What Can a Tanning Bed Do to Your Brain? | Connecticut Public Radio