Smoking over a period of many years may lead to a reduction in size of a part of the brain that is responsible for thinking and memory, according to a multi-national study.1
The research, which was carried out by universities in the USA, Canada and UK, found that a part of the brain called the cerebral cortex was thinner amongst groups of smokers than it was amongst non-smokers.
The study used MRI scans on 500 people aged 73, and checked for differences between smokers, former smokers and those who had never smoked. While we already know the cortex thins as we age, the study aimed to find out if smoking accelerated the process.
The cortex was found to be considerably thinner on those who smoked, although unfortunately there were only 36 current smokers in the entire group, which was a weakness of the study.
Researchers also found that former smokers had thinner cortexes, but could not tell if the cortex showed any signs of regrowth after stopping smoking as they only used one point in time - although it was observed that the cortex tended to be thicker on people who had stopped smoking many years ago than those who had quit recently.
Overall this information is useful, and adds even more value to the decision to quit smoking. However long you have smoked for, quitting is likely to increase your life expectancy and your quality of life.
1 Karama S, Ducharme S, Corely J, et al. Cigarette smoking and thinning of the brain's cortex. Molecular Psychiatry. Published online February 10 2015
Smokers have thinner brain cortex and could have impaired thinking. The Independent, February 11 2015
Smoking shrinks your brain and may damage your memory, study finds. Metro, February 11 2015