Teens who smoke have less grey matter in decision-making part of the brain


Teenagers who start smoking by 14 years of age have markedly less grey matter in a part of the brain linked to decision-making and rule-abiding, researchers have found. — 123rf.com

TEENAGERS who succumb to peer pressure and start smoking likely do so because they have less grey matter in the part of the brain that influences decision-making and abiding by rules.

Worse again, those youngsters who develop a smoking habit tend by the end of their teenage years to have experienced a reduction in grey matter in the part of the brain that controls how pleasure is managed.

That’s going by a study of adolescents and young adults in Britain, France, Germany and Ireland, which was carried out by the universities of Cambridge, Fudan and Warwick and the findings from which were published in the journal Nature Communications.

After comparing brain imaging data for those who had smoked by the age of 14 with those who had not, and repeated this for the same participants at ages 19 and 23, they found that “on average, teenagers who started smoking by 14 years of age had markedly less grey matter in a section of the left frontal lobe linked to decision-making and rule-breaking.”

Grey matter, the tissue that processes information and contains all of the organ’s neurons, sees its growth peak before adolescence, although overall brain development continues into adulthood.

The team further found that people who started smoking by the age of 14 saw a “loss of grey matter in the right prefrontal cortex,” which is also the part of the brain linked to binge drinking and marijuana use.

”Less grey matter across this brain region may limit cognitive function, leading to lower self-control and a propensity for risky behaviour, such as smoking,” said Barbara Sahakian of the University of Cambridge’s Department of Psychiatry. – dpa

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