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

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.

"Google fired a shot heard 'round the world, and now a second American company has answered the call to defend the rights of the Chinese people." -- Rep. Christopher H. Smith (R-N.J.)

Latest Headlines

Most Popular ArticlesAre you ready for this ? HyperDrive Aircraft
September 24, 2016, 9:29 AM
Leaked – Samsung S8 is a Dream and a Dream 2
September 25, 2016, 8:00 AM
Inspiron Laptops & 2-in-1 PCs
September 25, 2016, 9:00 AM
Snapchat’s New Sunglasses are a Spectacle – No Pun Intended
September 24, 2016, 9:02 AM
Walmart may get "Robot Shopping Carts?"
September 17, 2016, 6:01 AM

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