These changes can occur in those who have been smoking for a relatively short time.
The young, it turns out, smoke more than any other age group in America. Unfortunately, the period of life ranging from late adolescence to early adulthood is also a time when the brain is still developing.
Now, a small study from UCLA suggests a disturbing effect: Young adult smokers may experience changes in the structures of their brains due to cigarette smoking, dependence and craving. Even worse, these changes can occur in those who have been smoking for a relatively short time. Finally, the study suggests that neurobiological changes that may result from smoking during this critical period could explain why adults who began smoking at a young age stay hooked on cigarettes.
The study appears in today’s (March 3) online edition of the journal Neuropsychopharmacology.
“Although we are not certain whether the findings represent the effects of smoking or a genetic risk factor for nicotine dependence, the results may reflect the initial effects of cigarette smoking on the brain,” said senior author Edythe London, a professor of psychiatry and of molecular and medical pharmacology at UCLA’s Semel Institute for Neuroscience and Human Behavior and David Geffen School of Medicine. “This work may also contribute to the understanding of why smoking during this developmental stage has such a profound impact on lifelong smoking behavior.”