Perhaps UV is Addicting

How Tanning Changes the BrainNew York Times Article Aug 12, 2011

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On one occasion, the study subjects experienced a normal tanning session. But on another occasion, the researchers used a special filter that blocked only the UV light, although the tanners weren’t told of the change.

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.
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Activation of the mesostriatal reward pathway with exposure to ultraviolet radiation (UVR) vs. sham UVR in frequent tanners: a pilot study

Cynthia R. Harrington1, Tracy C. Beswick2, Michael Graves1, Heidi T. Jacobe1,3, Thomas S. Harris4, Shadi Kourosh1, Michael D. Devous Sr5, Bryon Adinoff3,5,*

Article first published online: 11 APR 2011; DOI: 10.1111/j.1369-1600.2010.00312.x
Vol. 16 Issue 3 Addiction Biology

Frequent and excessive tanning persists despite a growing understanding of its associated morbidity and mortality, suggesting that ultraviolet radiation may impart rewarding effects beyond the assumed cosmetic benefits. To empirically measure putative centrally rewarding properties of ultraviolet radiation (UVR), we assessed the effects of a commercially available tanning bed upon regional cerebral blood flow (rCBF), a measure of brain activity, using single-photon emission computed tomography (SPECT). Seven frequent salon bed tanners were placed under a UVA/UVB tanning light during two sessions; one session with UVR and the other with filtered UVR (sham UVR). Session order was randomized and subjects were blinded to study order. During the UVR session, relative to sham UVR session, subjects demonstrated a relative increase in rCBF of the dorsal striatum, anterior insula and medial orbitofrontal cortex, brain regions associated with the experience of reward. These changes were accompanied by a decrease in the subjective desire to tan. These findings suggest that UVR may have centrally rewarding properties that encourage excessive tanning.
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