(CTN News) – Recent research has discovered that smoking has a detrimental effect on the brain, leading to its shrinkage.
Additionally, genetics play a significant role in determining an individual’s susceptibility, with approximately half of the risk associated with smoking being attributed to genetic factors.
Scientists from Washington University School of Medicine in the United States have highlighted that accelerates the natural process of brain volume reduction that typically occurs with age, effectively prematurely aging the brain.
These findings provide valuable insights into why smokers are more prone to age-related cognitive decline and neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s.
The researchers emphasize that the impact on the brain has often been overlooked in the past, as the focus has primarily been on the detrimental effects of smoking on the lungs and heart.
Laura J. Bierut, a professor of psychiatry and the senior author of the study published in the journal Biological Psychiatry: Global Open Science, acknowledges the significance of this research in shedding light on the effects of smoking on the brain.
Bierut found that smoking is harmful to the brain.
Quitting can prevent further damage, but cannot fully restore the brain.
Previous studies have shown a genetic component to both brain size and behavior. The researchers analyzed data from the UK Biobank to understand the relationship between genes, brain structure, and smoking behavior.
They found correlations between history, genetic smoking risk, and brain volume. Those who smoked more had smaller brain volumes.
Furthermore, upon considering all three factors collectively, the team discovered that the correlation between genetic risk and brain volume vanished.
Nonetheless, the other two correlations, namely history and genetic smoking risk, and brain volume and smoking history, remained intact.
Through the utilization of statistical analysis, the researchers established a sequence of events. They determined that genetic risk leads to smoking, which subsequently results in a decrease in brain volume.
This discovery is worrisome, as a decrease in brain size corresponds to an expedited aging process.
This holds significance as our population continues to age, given that both aging are risk factors for dementia,” stated Bierut.
Additionally, the researchers observed that the effects of brain shrinkage were irreversible. This conclusion was drawn from the analysis of data from individuals who had quit years prior.
It was discovered that the brains of these individuals remained permanently smaller in comparison to those who had never smoked.
“While it is impossible to reverse the damage that has already occurred, it is possible to prevent further harm,” emphasized Yoonhoo Chang, the first author and a graduate student at the university.