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Biol Psychiatry. 2004 Jan 1;55(1):77-84.

Differences between smokers and nonsmokers in regional gray matter volumes and densities.

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Veterans Affairs Greater Los Angeles Healthcare System, Los Angeles, California 90095, USA.



Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) studies have demonstrated large-scale brain abnormalities in cigarette smokers, such as ventricular enlargement and atrophy. Converging lines of evidence point to functional differences between smokers and nonsmokers in specific brain regions, namely the lateral prefrontal cortex (PFC), anterior cingulate cortex (ACC), ventral striatum, and thalamus. Using MRI, we examined these regions for differences in gray matter between smokers and nonsmokers.


Thirty-six otherwise healthy adults (19 smokers and 17 nonsmoking control subjects) underwent three-dimensional Fourier-transform spoiled-gradient-recalled acquisition MRI of the brain. Both hand-drawn regions of interest and the computer program voxel-based morphometry were used to assess group differences in regional gray matter volumes and densities, respectively.


Smokers had smaller gray matter volumes and lower gray matter densities than nonsmokers in the PFC bilaterally, along with smaller volumes in the left dorsal ACC and lower gray matter densities in the right cerebellum. Smokers also had negative associations between pack-year smoking history and PFC gray matter densities.


Smokers and nonsmokers differed in regional gray matter in brain areas previously linked with nicotine dependence. These findings might reflect effects of chronic smoking, predisposing traits that lead to smoking, or some combination of these factors.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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