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Neuropsychopharmacology. 2011 Apr;36(5):970-8. doi: 10.1038/npp.2010.235. Epub 2011 Jan 26.

Neural correlates of response inhibition and cigarette smoking in late adolescence.

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Department of Psychology, University of California, Los Angeles, CA, USA.


Smoking is usually initiated in adolescence, and is the leading preventable cause of death in the United States. Little is known, however, about the links between smoking and neurobiological function in adolescent smokers. This study aimed to probe prefrontal cortical function in late adolescent smokers, using a response inhibition task, and to assess possible relationships between inhibition-related brain activity, clinical features of smoking behavior, and exposure to cigarette smoking. Participants in this study were otherwise healthy late adolescent smokers (15-21 years of age; n=25), who reported daily smoking for at least the 6 months before testing, and age- and education-matched nonsmokers (16-21 years of age; n=25), who each reported smoking fewer than five cigarettes in their lifetimes. The subjects performed the Stop-signal Task, while undergoing functional magnetic resonance imaging. There were no significant group differences in prefrontal cortical activity during response inhibition, but the Heaviness of Smoking Index, a measure of smoking behavior and dependence, was negatively related to neural function in cortical regions of the smokers. These findings suggest that smoking can modulate prefrontal cortical function. Given the late development of the prefrontal cortex, which continues through adolescence, it is possible that smoking may influence the trajectory of brain development during this critical developmental period.

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