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Presse Med. 2009 Sep;38(9):1241-52. doi: 10.1016/j.lpm.2009.01.017. Epub 2009 Aug 7.

[Cognitive modifications associated with tobacco smoking].

[Article in French]

Author information

  • 1Université Paris-Sud, Le Kremlin Bicêtre, INSERM U669, Paris, Hôpital Paul Brousse, Villejuif, France.



Tobacco is an important source of somatic diseases and causes high mortality. It is associated with cognitive disorders which tend to maintain addictive mechanisms. In the short term, the nicotine contained in tobacco enhances attention and memory.


To realize this review, we made a research, we made a research on Medline, Embase, PsycInfo, Google Scholar using the single or combined key-words "tobacco", "nicotine", "addiction", "dependence", "cognitive disorders", "executive function", "memory", "attention", "neuropsychological". We selected English or French articles from 1987 to 2008 by privileging controlled studies.


This effect can be observed in smokers (with or without withdrawal symptoms), non-smokers and in patients suffering from cognitive disorders. In the long term, tobacco accelerates dementia processes. It is associated with an increased risk of cognitive deterioration. This deterioration concerns mainly memory and processing speed. These results were reported in prospective studies. They contradict early reports, that suggested smoking could actually be protective against certain central neural system disorders. These early results relayed on case-control studies, which were certainly biased by a "healthy survival effect". Further studies are required to evaluate nicotine's long term effect and its potential efficacy in treating and preventing cognitive disorders or dementia.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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