Cigarette smoking is associated with cortical thinning in anterior frontal regions, insula and regions showing atrophy in early Alzheimer's Disease

Timothy C. Durazzo, Dieter J. Meyerhoff, Karmen K. Yoder

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

3 Scopus citations


Background: Magnetic resonance imaging studies of cigarette smoking-related effects on human brain structure primarily focused on cortical volumes. Much less is known about the effects of smoking on cortical thickness. Smokers and Non-smokers were compared on regional cortical thickness. We predicted smokers would demonstrate greater age-related thinning localized to anterior frontal regions that serve as nodes for the executive, salience, and emotional regulation networks (ESER regions) and those demonstrating significant atrophy in early Alzheimer's Disease (AD regions). Methods: Non-smokers (n = 41) and smokers (n = 41), 22–70 years of age, completed a 4 T MRI study. Regional cortical thickness was quantitated via FreeSurfer. In smokers, associations between smoking severity, decision-making, impulsivity, and regional cortical thickness were examined. Results: Smokers demonstrated cortical thinning in the medial and lateral OFC, insula, entorhinal, fusiform, middle temporal, and Composite AD regions. In Smokers, greater pack-years were associated with thinner lateral OFC, middle temporal, inferior parietal, fusiform, precuneus, and Composite AD regions. In Smokers, poorer decision-making/greater risk taking was related to thinner cortices in caudal ACC, rostral middle frontal and superior frontal gyri, and Composite ESER. Higher self-reported impulsivity was associated with thinner rostral and caudal ACC. Conclusions: This study provides additional evidence that cigarette smoking is associated with thinner cortices in regions implicated in the development and maintenance of substance use disorders and in regions demonstrating significant atrophy in early AD. The novel structure-function relationships in Smokers further our understanding of the neurobiological substrates potentially underlying the neuropsychological abnormalities documented in smokers.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)277-284
Number of pages8
JournalDrug and Alcohol Dependence
StatePublished - Nov 1 2018



  • Cigarette smoking
  • Cortical thickness
  • Decision-making
  • FreeSurfer
  • Impulsivity
  • Magnetic resonance imaging

ASJC Scopus subject areas

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

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