Thinner Brain: Another Reason to Quit

Smoking reduces thickness of cerebral cortex

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

(RxWiki News) A new study published in Biological Psychiatry reports that smoking impacts the cerebral cortex, the area of the brain that controls many higher-order functions such as language, information processing, and memory.

Results from the study show that smokers, compared to those who have never smoked, have a reduced cortical thickness in the left medial orbitofrontal cortex. Cortical thinning has been associated with normal aging, reduced intelligence, and impaired cognition. 

More specifically, thinning of the orbitofrontal cortex may be responsible for nicotine addiction. According to Dr. Simone Kühn, "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 nicotine addiction comes about." Kühn adds, "In a follow-up study, we plan to explore the rehabilitative effects of quitting smoking on the brain."

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

Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
December 2, 2010
Last Updated:
December 3, 2010