Aug. 15, 2023 – They found that, on average, teenagers who started smoking by 14 years of age had markedly less gray matter in a section of the left frontal lobe linked to decision-making and rule-breaking.

Gray matter is the brain tissue that processes information, and contains all of the organ’s neurons. While brain development continues into adulthood, gray matter growth peaks before adolescence.

Low gray matter volume in the left side of the ventromedial prefrontal cortex may be an “inheritable biomarker” for nicotine addiction, say researchers—with implications for prevention and treatment.

In addition, the scientists found that the opposite, right part of the same brain region also had less gray matter in smokers.

Importantly, loss of gray matter in the right prefrontal cortex appears to speed up only after someone has started smoking. This region is linked to the seeking of sensations.