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Sunday, December 05, 2010

Smoking and Your Brain

Like many of us who grew up in the 50s, like me, you may have had parents who smoked.  For years I was submerged in second hand smoke from Phillip Morris and Kent cigarettes.  When my older brother began smoking he added Pall Mall to the mix.

I grew up as an allergic child and now I know enough to be sure that all the smoke exposure substantially contributed to my respiratory problems.  Today I do not have much tolerance for smoke of all kinds, even just smelling tobacco smoke on someone's clothes.

Brain allergy is another consideration and surely the systemic effect complicated my life until I moved from that environment.

As if there aren't already enough reasons not to light up, a new study has found that smoking cigarettes can thin your brain.

Researchers compared the thickness of the cerebral cortex in volunteers who smoked and in those who never smoked. None of the participants had a history of mental or psychiatric illness.

The findings, published this week in the journal Biological Psychiatry, showed that smokers had thinning in the left medial orbitofrontal cortex, while the nonsmokers did not.

Furthermore, the cortex was thinner in heavier smokers: those who smoked more cigarettes a day and had had more exposure to tobacco smoke during their lives. Subjects who smoked fewer cigarettes with less overall exposure to smoke had thicker cortexes.

The cortex controls memory, language and the ability to process information. A diminished cortical thickness has been linked not only to aging but to an impairment of cognitive functions.

"All of this makes sense because smoking constricts blood vessels, and that means low blood flow," Lenox Hill Hospital pulmonologist Dr. Len Horovitz told AOL Health. "It follows perfectly that something that is a chronic producer of low blood flow, cigarette smoking, would not allow adequate thickening or development of the tissues that the vessels are supposed to be supplying with blood."

He said the nicotine and chemicals in cigarette smoke are what cause capillaries and other blood vessels to tighten, slowing or even stopping blood from passing through them altogether.

"This is another example of why smoking is one of the worst things you can do for your health overall," Horovitz said.

Researchers said their findings also may point to the reasons behind nicotine addiction.

The orbitofrontal cortex has already been associated with drug addiction. The study authors say that their findings suggest cortical thinning due to smoking could raise the risk of addiction, including one to nicotine.

"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," lead author Dr. Simone Kühn said in a statement. "In a follow-up study, we plan to explore the rehabilitative effects of quitting smoking on the brain."

But Horovitz said making that inference might be a stretch because the opposite argument could also be made: a thinner cortex could mean less of a chance of developing an addiction.

"That conclusion is difficult to make," he said.

Other studies using brain imaging scans have found that smoking tobacco is linked to a variety of serious structural brain disorders and abnormalities.

But previous research hadn't looked at the impact of cigarettes on the thickness or thinness of the cortex.

"The current findings suggest that smoking may have a cumulative effect on the brain," Dr. John Krystal, the editor of Biological Psychiatry and professor and chair of psychiatry at Yale University, said in a statement. "This concerning finding highlights the importance of targeting young smokers for antismoking interventions."

from AOL Originals

1 comment:

teadrinker said...

This is not only another reason not to smoke but another reason to ban smoking. Please who experience second hand smoke experience all of the harmful effects.