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Cigarettes might just change a teen's brain

We’ve all seen before and after pictures of smokers’ lungs. Before, they’re pink and healthy, filled with air. After, they’re black and polluted and ready to collapse. Smoking causes cancer—we all know that. But did you know that in addition to fatal diseases and addiction, smoking can change the structural composition of your brain? 


A recent study compared the difference in the brain structure between light smokers and heavy smokers. All of the smokers had started when they were around 15 years old. Those who smoked more cigarettes per day had thinner insula, which is the part of the brain involved in decision making, Reuters reports.


Scientists involved in the study have concluded that starting smoking in your teens, when your brain is still developing, can promote dependence on tobacco products later in life. These brain changes may contribute to that.


One thing to note: The study did not have a control group of nonsmokers, so the scientists cannot definitively say that smoking caused the changes. More research must be done to say that smoking definitively causes changes in the prefrontal cortex in teenagers. 

BY BRITTANY TAYLOR ON 3/6/2014 12:00:00 AM


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