Smoking may thin the brain

Dec 02, 2010

Many brain imaging studies have reported that tobacco smoking is associated with large-scale and wide-spread structural brain abnormalities.

The is a specific area of the brain responsible for many important higher-order functions, including language, information processing, and memory. Reduced cortical thickness has been associated with normal aging, reduced intelligence, and impaired cognition.

However, prior research had not described the impact of smoking upon cortical thickness.

A new study, published in the current issue of , now reports concerning findings about the impact of smoking.

Researchers compared cortical thickness in volunteers, both smokers and never-smokers, who were without medical or psychiatric illnesses.

Smokers exhibited cortical thinning in the left medial orbitofrontal cortex. In addition, their cortical thickness measures negatively correlated with the amount of cigarettes smoked per day and the magnitude of lifetime exposure to . In other words, heavier smoking was associated with more pronounced thinning of cortical tissue.

The orbitofrontal cortex has frequently been implicated in . The current findings suggest that smoking-related cortical thinning may increase the risk for addictions, including smoking.

"Since the brain region in which we found the smoking-associated thinning has been related to impulse control, reward processing and decision making, this might explain how addiction comes about," explained Dr. Simone Kühn. "In a follow-up study, we plan to explore the rehabilitative effects of quitting smoking on the brain."

"The current findings suggest that smoking may have a cumulative effect on the brain," noted John Krystal, M.D., Editor of Biological Psychiatry and Professor and Chair of Psychiatry at Yale University. "This concerning finding highlights the importance of targeting young smokers for antismoking interventions."

For now, this study adds to a long and ever-growing list of reasons that should consider quitting.

Explore further: Self-regulation intervention boosts school readiness of at-risk children, study shows

More information: "Reduced Thickness of Medial Orbitofrontal Cortex in Smokers" by Simone Kühn et al., Biological Psychiatry, Volume 68, Number 11 (December 1, 2010)

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

The more someone smokes, the smaller the number of gray cells

Oct 28, 2010

Is there a relation between the structure of specific regions of the brain and nicotine dependence? This is the question researchers of the Physikalisch-Technische Bundesanstalt (PTB) Berlin, Germany, have been investigating ...

Not ready to quit? Try cutting back

Dec 07, 2006

In a review article in the December Nicotine and Tobacco Research, researchers at the University of Vermont have found an unexpected, effective alternative to motivate smokers to quit smoking – cutting back. According to ...

Recommended for you

Brains transform remote threats into anxiety

Nov 21, 2014

Modern life can feel defined by low-level anxiety swirling through society. Continual reports about terrorism and war. A struggle to stay on top of family finances and hold onto jobs. An onslaught of news ...

Mental disorders due to permanent stress

Nov 21, 2014

Activated through permanent stress, immune cells will have a damaging effect on and cause changes to the brain. This may result in mental disorders. The effects of permanent stress on the immune system are studied by the ...

Could there be a bright side to depression?

Nov 21, 2014

(Medical Xpress)—A group of researchers studying the roots of depression has developed a test that leads them closer to the idea that depression may actually be an adaptation meant to help people cope with ...

User comments : 1

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

Bob_B
not rated yet Dec 02, 2010
Did they check Einstein's brain which is in a jar somewhere?

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.