Smokers suffer memory loss due to thinner cortex

Regular smoking might result in memory loss; scientists said on an alarming note. In the research, smokers were found to have thinner brain cortex, a part of the brain related to memory. However, quitting smoking might restore the thickness of the cortex over a period of time.

For the study, researchers from the University of Edinburgh, took MRI scans of 244 males and 260 females with an average age of 73. Some were current smokers; some were past smokers who gave up smoking and rest were non-smokers. All the participants underwent the Scottish Mental Survey in 1947.

After analysing the obtained data, researchers found a small link between smoking and thickness of the brain cortex. Non- smokers had thicker cortex when compared to smokers. “We found that current and ex-smokers had, at age 73, many areas of thinner brain cortex than those that never smoked. Subjects who stopped smoking seem to partially recover their cortical thickness for each year without smoking,” said the study’s lead author Ian Deary, Director of the Centre for Cognitive Ageing and Cognitive Epidemiology at the University of Edinburgh.

In addition, it was also found that quitting smoking helps in regaining the thickness of the cortex. However, its effect was very minute as people who didn’t smoke since past 25 years showed very slight improvement in thickness of the cortex.  Cortex is an upper part of the brain involved in thinking process. Thinner cortex is relating to dampening of memory or memory loss whereas thicker cortex means better-retaining power.

More study is needed to confirm the finding, researchers need to reconduct similar tests on a different set of subjects. Besides, study warned smokers to quit smoking as it has several other adverse effects.

Professor James Goodwin, Head of Research at Age UK, said “Understanding how and why our thinking skills change with age is a major current health challenge. This work helps us to understand how smoking affects the brain in later life. The more we can find out about what influences our thinking skills as we age, the better the advice that we can give people on protecting their cognitive health”.

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