Print 31 comment(s) - last by NellyFromMA.. on Mar 9 at 10:44 AM

Smoking tobacco impacts the prefrontal cortex of teens during development, which may lead to poor decision-making

Edythe London, study leader and a professor of psychiatry at the Semel Institute for Neuroscience and Human Behavior at UCLA, along with a team of researchers from UCLA and the University of Texas at Austin, have found that teenage smokers have reduced brain activity compared to non-smokers. 

The UCLA team determined these results by measuring the level of nicotine dependence in 25 smokers and 25 non-smokers that ranged from ages 15 to 21 through the use of the Heaviness of Smoking Index (HSI). The HSI looks at how many cigarettes the teen smokes per day and how soon they begin smoking each day to determine their dependence

Researchers then performed a test called the Stop-Signal Task (SST) on the participants. While being subjected to functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), the test subjects were asked to press a button as quickly as they could when a lighted arrow appeared. The only time they were not to press the button was when an auditory cue was played. This tested each participant’s ability to inhibit an action. 

London described the results as "interesting." Higher HSI measurements, or the more a teen smoked, resulted in reduced activity in a part of the brain known as the prefrontal cortex, which is responsible for decision-making. But despite this reduced activity, both smokers and non-smokers performed about the same in the Stop-Signal Task. 

"The finding that there was little difference on the Stop-Signal Task between smokers and non-smokers was a surprise," said London. "That suggested to us that the motor response of smokers may be maintained through some kind of compensation from other brain areas." 

According to the study, the fact that both smokers and non-smokers performed the same in the Stop-Signal Task "suggests that early interventions during the teen years" may prevent teens from smoking occasionally to smoking heavily.  

London also noted that protracted development of the prefrontal cortex may cause poor decision-making in teenagers, due to immature cognitive control during the time of adolescence.  

"Such an effect can influence the ability of youth to make rational decisions regarding their well-being, and that includes the decision to stop smoking," said London. "As the prefrontal cortex continues to develop during the critical period of adolescence, smoking may influence the trajectory of brain development, affecting the function of the prefrontal cortex. In turn, if the prefrontal cortex is negatively impacted, a teen may be more likely to start smoking and to keep smoking - instead of making the decision that would favor in a healthier life."

This study was published in Neuropsychopharmacology.

Comments     Threshold

This article is over a month old, voting and posting comments is disabled

This just in
By tastyratz on 3/8/2011 2:16:36 PM , Rating: 5
Teens who unwisely choose to smoke when young with no benefits and all health risks are more apt to make poor decisions. Wow... That is a leap.

I hear kids who attend class have higher testing scores than kids who don't as well.

RE: This just in
By Wiggy Mcshades on 3/8/11, Rating: -1
RE: This just in
By smackababy on 3/8/2011 2:42:48 PM , Rating: 4
Except, I'd wager quite a lot that almost any sample size larger than 2 will show students who regularly attend class score higher on tests. Those who don't want to be there usually skip. Sure, there are some who don't go but learn anyway, but they are the minority.

RE: This just in
By cruisin3style on 3/8/2011 6:26:11 PM , Rating: 2
That's me, heh. I used to skip as many classes as possible because they were usually boring and moved too slow, then I would learn the test material through marathon study sessions before the exam of 1-3 days depending on the level of material.

RE: This just in
By Hieyeck on 3/9/2011 9:05:20 AM , Rating: 2
There are exceptions to every rule. No exceptions.

RE: This just in
By kingius on 3/9/2011 10:37:53 AM , Rating: 2
What have they discovered?

Idiots like smoking.

I could have told them that for nothing.

RE: This just in
By NellyFromMA on 3/9/11, Rating: 0
RE: This just in
By tastyratz on 3/8/2011 7:49:25 PM , Rating: 2

It was a generalization of the obvious with comic relief. Those who don't care to attend class generally learn less than those that show up. This does not mean all fit the category.

RE: This just in
By frobizzle on 3/8/2011 3:05:54 PM , Rating: 1
Another bogus study by the rabid anti-smokers.

Let's see here....Albert Einstein smoked and he was a complete moron, right?

Now...let the modding down begin!

RE: This just in
By Flunk on 3/8/2011 3:14:28 PM , Rating: 2
Can you defend your position that teenagers should smoke? What advantages would they have over non-smokers?

RE: This just in
By morphologia on 3/8/2011 3:28:42 PM , Rating: 2
Like Flunk said, you haven't addressed the fact that the study is oriented towards the effect of smoking on TEENS. Granted, the study doesn't say much aside from a decrease in activity (with no noticeable difference in performance) but we are looking at a demographic that ostensibly should not be smoking, whether for legal or developmental reasons, or whatever. your post demonstrates, rabies is not limited to the anti-crowd.

RE: This just in
By YashBudini on 3/8/2011 4:15:16 PM , Rating: 3
Let's see here....Albert Einstein smoked and he was a complete moron, right?

Perhaps he was compared to what he could have been.

Why didn't you think of that? Were you smoking?

RE: This just in
By SkierInAvon on 3/8/2011 7:45:16 PM , Rating: 3
No..No... Einstein would have considered the relative motion of the teen smoker compaired to the non-smoker (teen) at rest.

RE: This just in
By Hiawa23 on 3/9/2011 8:44:59 AM , Rating: 2
This seems really simple. Teens, adults, anyone, don't start smoking, & if you do & you get hooked, really don't cry for help when your lungs are about to fall out many years later, or worse due to your bad life decisions. That's the moral of the story to me.

RE: This just in
By NellyFromMA on 3/9/2011 10:41:36 AM , Rating: 2
Seriously, get off your high horse. I'm sure half the people who are whining about smokers probably stuff their face in front of the computer and tv all day and then cry when they're fat and unattractive. Seriously, get over it. To each their own. Who are any of you to judge.

I smoke and have made plenty of good life decisions, so please, don't start associating smokers of any age with bad decision makers. That's just rediculous. Think about it for a moment, how many teenagers IN GENERAL make good decisions regularly.

One thing that I cannot understand
By tayb on 3/8/2011 7:59:08 PM , Rating: 5
I know many people that smoke. My mother in law is a chain smoker and my grandfather died from lung cancer. I'm not anti-smoking nor do I hate people who smoke but there is one question that I cannot comprehend.

Why start? I cannot figure this out. Why? Why do you even start smoking? What draws you to smoking? I can (partially) understand the addiction and that some people aren't mentally strong enough to quit smoking but why in the world do you start in the first place?

Nothing about cigarettes seems appealing. Expensive, turns teeth yellow, you smell, your belongings smell, it's (supposedly) poor for your health. Why? Why?

By Camikazi on 3/8/2011 9:18:16 PM , Rating: 2
I've wondered the same thing for years, it makes no sense to me why you would start at all.

By iovmerot on 3/8/2011 9:37:36 PM , Rating: 2
i'm not what would be classified as a smoker. I've only tried the occasional rollie, cigar and pipe. But for me the reason why i chose to give it a go was mainly due ot the smell and taste. Personally, tailor made's are terrible to smell, however the 'unburnt' tabocco in a rollie is quite fragrant. Burnt, it is not the same, but i find it to still be a whole lot nicer than a tailor made. Pipes and cigars, again very nice to smell (almost good enough to eat - depending on the flavouring in the tobacco). That is why i enjoy the occasional smoke - occasional = once a month or thereabouts.

But for teens its all about rebellion, image, strength etc. You know what its like in the school yard, a lot of who you are is about impression. Some kids are just more prone (based on upbringing and other enviornmental factors) to want to smoke for that image and feeling of power - regardless of the damage it does to you in the long run (a lot of teens do not look that far ahead).

By sprockkets on 3/8/2011 10:07:23 PM , Rating: 2
I think it makes the stupid teens feel like adults, doing stuff only they are legally allowed to do, thus looking cool or elitist. Other's simply like the buzz they get.

By xsilver on 3/9/2011 1:52:38 AM , Rating: 2
I can (partially) understand the addiction and that some people aren't mentally strong enough to quit smoking but why in the world do you start in the first place?

If you're too weak willed to stop - you're probably weak willed enough to be conned by someone to start...

By piroroadkill on 3/9/2011 3:36:19 AM , Rating: 2
Peer pressure. Feeling cool.

It has absolutely nothing to do with feeling relaxed, because the only reason you "feel relaxed" after smoking is because you satisfied a craving you have. If you didn't have that craving, you wouldn't want it to start with.

By YashBudini on 3/8/2011 4:13:11 PM , Rating: 5
Teens have brain activity?

RE: Whoa!
By piroroadkill on 3/9/2011 3:36:50 AM , Rating: 2

By Iketh on 3/8/2011 2:47:16 PM , Rating: 2
I've been an on-off smoker for 14 years, having quit 7 different times (need to find non-smoking friends.) I've become aware of everything this article states over the years on my own, so I'd like to back it up with my experiences.

Each time I've quit, I've done it cold-turkey. During the first 2-3 days of no nicotine, I have to isolate myself not only because of the bad temper, but also because I feel confused. I feel increased pressure over my eyes in my foreheard region. It's increased blood flow to my frontal lobes, and as brain cells enter a hightened state or "come online", I feel like I have 2 voices in my head, 2 sources of thought and decision making. It sorts itself out during these 2 days, but lemme tell you... each time I quit, this process gets more and more pronounced. It's something you just don't notice if you quit once or twice.

I'm a gamer. I want to quit for good because I've contended for world titles when not smoking, but nowhere near the level I need when I do smoke.

RE: Smoking
By Lord 666 on 3/8/2011 3:22:00 PM , Rating: 2
After three concussions within 10 years with the most recent was 3 weeks ago, I feel that my mind comes back "online" after taking Claritin D 24hrs.

Have tried large amounts of creatine, omega 3, dha... at this point I would drink Charlie Sheen's dragon blood. But still the only consistent thing is Claritin D.

What is the point?
By morphologia on 3/8/2011 3:10:27 PM , Rating: 4
So, the test they used to in the experiment showed no deficiency in cognitive ability, but because of the deficient activity observed in the brain it's assumed to be a problem anyway? How would we summarize that: "less brain activity, but no noticeable impact whatsoever?"

Did they cross-check for membership in popular cliques vs. loner status? Decision-making in a brain that has been psychologically programmed to respond to the demands and expectations of others might be less pronounced than in a brain oriented toward independent thinking.

I think that it's somewhat strange to base a scientific assumption on a data element rather than the test whose results are intended to differentiate the findings.

Dopamine receptors
By omnicronx on 3/8/2011 2:24:08 PM , Rating: 2
Isn't there a direct correlation here considering how cigarettes affect your dopamine receptors?

Furthermore, wouldn't this also apply to everyone let alone teens?

Silly me
By Iaiken on 3/8/2011 2:49:36 PM , Rating: 2
I always thought that it was the "Reduced Brain Activity" that lead teens to smoking in the first place...

Learn something new every day...

By Queonda on 3/8/2011 5:47:15 PM , Rating: 2
And in other breaking news, consumption of strychnine causes fatalities in rats.

By mlmiller1 on 3/8/2011 6:08:59 PM , Rating: 2
If smokers get the same results with less effort (brain activity), then the study suggest smoking gives you a more efficient mind...Right?
Maybe I had it all wrong.
I need to start smoking!

By marvdmartian on 3/8/2011 2:15:13 PM , Rating: 1
is, of course, directly dependent on the substance being smoked by the teenager, right? ;)

"We shipped it on Saturday. Then on Sunday, we rested." -- Steve Jobs on the iPad launch

Copyright 2016 DailyTech LLC. - RSS Feed | Advertise | About Us | Ethics | FAQ | Terms, Conditions & Privacy Information | Kristopher Kubicki