Cigarette smoking is associated with amplified age-related volume loss in subcortical brain regions

Timothy C. Durazzo, Dieter J. Meyerhoff, Karmen K. Yoder, Donna E. Murray

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

11 Scopus citations


Background Magnetic resonance imaging studies of cigarette smoking-related effects on human brain structure have primarily employed voxel-based morphometry, and the most consistently reported finding was smaller volumes or lower density in anterior frontal regions and the insula. Much less is known about the effects of smoking on subcortical regions. We compared smokers and non-smokers on regional subcortical volumes, and predicted that smokers demonstrate greater age-related volume loss across subcortical regions than non-smokers. Methods Non-smokers (n = 43) and smokers (n = 40), 22–70 years of age, completed a 4 T MRI study. Bilateral total subcortical lobar white matter (WM) and subcortical nuclei volumes were quantitated via FreeSurfer. In smokers, associations between smoking severity measures and subcortical volumes were examined. Results Smokers demonstrated greater age-related volume loss than non-smokers in the bilateral subcortical lobar WM, thalamus, and cerebellar cortex, as well as in the corpus callosum and subdivisions. In smokers, higher pack-years were associated with smaller volumes of the bilateral amygdala, nucleus accumbens, total corpus callosum and subcortical WM. Conclusions Results provide novel evidence that chronic smoking in adults is associated with accelerated age-related volume loss in subcortical WM and GM nuclei. Greater cigarette quantity/exposure was related to smaller volumes in regions that also showed greater age-related volume loss in smokers. Findings suggest smoking adversely affected the structural integrity of subcortical brain regions with increasing age and exposure. The greater age-related volume loss in smokers may have implications for cortical-subcortical structural and/or functional connectivity, and response to available smoking cessation interventions.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)228-236
Number of pages9
JournalDrug and Alcohol Dependence
StatePublished - Aug 1 2017


  • Brain volume
  • Cigarette smoking
  • FreeSurfer
  • Magnetic resonance imaging
  • Subcortical
  • White matter

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Toxicology
  • Pharmacology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health
  • Pharmacology (medical)

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