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Reduced Thickness of Medial Orbitofrontal Cortex in Smokers

  • Simone Kühn
    Correspondence
    Address correspondence to Simone Kühn, Dr., Department of Experimental Psychology, Ghent University, Henri Dunantlaan 2, 9000 Ghent, Belgium
    Affiliations
    Faculty of Psychology and Educational Sciences, Department of Experimental Psychology and Ghent Institute for Functional and Metabolic Imaging, Ghent University, Ghent, Belgium

    Institute of Cognitive Neuroscience, Department of Psychology, University College London, London, United Kingdom

    St. Hedwig Krankenhaus, Clinic for Psychiatry and Psychotherapy, Charité University Medicine, Berlin, Germany
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  • Florian Schubert
    Affiliations
    Physikalisch-Technische Bundesanstalt, Clinic for Psychiatry and Psychotherapy, Charité University Medicine, Berlin, Germany
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  • Jürgen Gallinat
    Affiliations
    St. Hedwig Krankenhaus, Clinic for Psychiatry and Psychotherapy, Charité University Medicine, Berlin, Germany
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Published:September 28, 2010DOI:https://doi.org/10.1016/j.biopsych.2010.08.004

      Background

      Structural deficiencies within the prefrontal cortex might be related to drug-taking behavior that prevails in smokers. Cortical thickness has been found to be a structural modulator of cerebral function and cognition and a subtle correlate of mental disorders. However, to date an analysis of cortical thickness in smokers compared with never-smokers has not been undertaken.

      Methods

      We acquired high-resolution magnetic resonance imaging scans from 22 smokers and 21 never-smokers and used FreeSurfer to model the gray-white and pial surfaces for each individual cortex to compute the distance between these surfaces to obtain a measure of cortical thickness. The main cortical folds were aligned across individuals with FreeSurfer's surface-based averaging technique to compare whole brain differences in cortical thickness between smokers and never-smokers.

      Results

      Relative to never-smokers, smokers showed greater cortical thinning in the left medial orbitofrontal cortex (mOFC). Cortical thickness measures extracted from mOFC correlated negatively with the amount of cigarettes consumed/day and the magnitude of lifetime exposure to tobacco smoke.

      Conclusions

      The brains of smokers are structurally different from those of never-smokers in a dose-dependent manner. The cortical thinning in mOFC in smokers relative to never-smokers might imply dysfunctions of the brain's reward, impulse control, and decision-making circuits. Related behavioral correlates are suggested to be relevant for smoking initiation and maintenance.

      Key Words

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