Cigarette addiction may affect brain development in teens

By Staff Writer

Adolescents who use tobacco show less function in the prefrontal cortexes of their brains than teens who are non-smokers, according to a new study published in the journal Neuropsychopharmacology.

Researchers administered a test to a group of 50 young adults between the ages of 15 and 21 to assess their ability to inhibit physical reactions to stimuli. Half of the participants regularly smoked cigarettes, while the others did not.

As their brains were being monitored by imaging technology, the participants were instructed to push a button when a specific signal was illuminated, unless the indicator was accompanied by a sound.

An index measured the adolescents' nicotine dependency based on how often they smoked.

The study results showed that the participants who were heavily addicted to cigarettes had the least prefrontal cortex activity. However, the investigators also found that both groups had similar test scores.

The researchers said they believe that these findings suggest that other areas of smokers' brains help compensate for the low levels of activity in the prefrontal cortex, which influences the person's decision-making abilities.

Teens who have developed smoking habits may consider drug rehab to help prevent further health damage.