Does Tobacco Kill Brain Cells? - NeuroTray (2022)

The harmful effects of tobacco cigarettes on our body are well known. Not only the respiratory system is affected, but also the digestive system, in addition to the known problems in metabolism and bodily functions in general.

But how much do we know about the mental effects of smoking? What happens in our brain when we smoke? Let’s do some research on this.

Today post we are going to answer the question ‘’Does tobacco kill brain cells?’’ We will discover the mental effects of smoking, what happens to the brain while we smoke and how this affects the neurons.

Does tobacco kill brain cells?

Yes, tobacco kills brain cells and prevents the hippocampus from creating new ones.

Lighting and smoking a cigarette are actions that millions of people carry out on a regular basis every day, even knowing that smoking and tobacco use have a large number of harmful and detrimental effects on our survival.

Nowadays, most know the relationship between tobacco and lung cancer, respiratory problems, the aging of our tissues or the shortening of life expectancy. However, there are other organs and affectations that are not usually taken into account by the population and that despite this are fundamental: for example, the effects of tobacco on the brain.

Throughout this article we are going to briefly review what smoking involves, how tobacco affects the brain, and the effects and risks that tobacco use can have on the king organ.

Does Tobacco Kill Brain Cells? - NeuroTray (1)

Tobacco and nicotine

Tobacco is a product made from the tobacco plant (Nicotiana tabacum), specifically its leaves and stem, which after being minced or cut are prepared in different formats and some of which are mixed with other substances to form cigarettes, tobacco for rolling or to use in pipe, and that is consumed generally by means of the aspiration of the smoke of its combustion.

The main active ingredient in tobacco, which gives it its psychoactive properties, is nicotine. This substance has activating and stimulating effects on the body, attaching itself to the nicotinic acetylcholine receptors in our body.

Despite this, with chronic consumption and the progressive habituation that this substance generates, the effects are less and less activating and tend to be perceived as depressants and even relaxing.

But habituation to nicotine ends up generating dependence on its acquisition externally, in such a way that little by little greater amounts are needed to obtain the same effects: with the passage of time smoking becomes a necessity and the smoking or dependence on nicotine or tobacco.

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The consumption of tobacco and the inhalation of its smoke also implies that other components are incorporated into the body, such as carbon monoxide, carcinogens, free radicals and oxidants such as the hydroxyl radical, carcinogenic gases such as formaldehyde or nitric oxide or metals such as cadmium or beryllium (and even arsenic).

In addition, this consumption has harmful effects on multiple parts of our body, regardless of whether we are talking about tobacco in the form of cigarettes or in other forms

The inhalation of smoke is irritating and is deeply linked to respiratory problems (being one of the most important reasons symptoms of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, emphysema and other respiratory problems) and the development of respiratory tumors or of the intestinal and oropharyngeal tract.

It also affects, among others, the heart and the vascular system, generating vasoconstriction and can facilitate severe problems in said system.

It can cause liver and pancreas problems, damage eyes and skin, and alter metabolism and the gastrointestinal system. It also reduces physical capacity due to lack of oxygenation.

How does smoking work in our brain?

Upon inhalation, most of this substance is absorbed by the smoker through the lungs (and to a much lesser extent through the mucous membranes and tongue), and after being processed by the alveoli and carried into the blood in about eight seconds reaches our brain after having passed through the blood-brain barrier.

Once there, it fixes on the acetylcholine receptors called nicotinics, in which it generates the opening of calcium channels but prevents the acetylcholine already existing in the brain from entering.

This will cause the body to try to generate higher levels of acetylcholine, which will also cause the activation of the dopaminergic of the brain’s reward system.

Nicotine affects different parts of the brain, but some of the most relevant are the limbic system and the basal ganglia, as well as the mesocortical and mesolimbic pathways.

This system is the cause that the consumption of tobacco gradually becomes palatable and encourages addiction. The dopamine in this area increases at the same time that other components of tobacco block the action of MAO that would decrease it.

It also affects the locus coeruleus, stimulating it and causing an increase in energy levels while helping to generate feelings of tranquility in stressful situations.

Likewise, little by little a desensitization of nicotinic receptors to this substance is generated through positive regulation, to which the body will respond by forming a greater number of receptors where the union between nicotine and receptor can occur.

A tolerance to the substance is developing, something that will cause more and more nicotine to be needed to cause the same effects. And this tolerance also partly explains why chronic smokers feel more relaxed when they smoke than being activated: they are actually relieving the anxiety of withdrawal.

At the same time, it affects the hypothalamic-pituitary axis in a way that increases the release of adrenocorticotropin and corticotropin-releasing hormones, which in turn contributes to stimulating the adrenal glands in such a way that it causes the synthesis and emission of adrenaline or epinephrine.

This hormone will generate vasoconstriction and increases in pressure and heart rate and, in turn, feeds back the activation of the body. It also hinders the synthesis of pancreatic enzymes.

Effects of tobacco on the brain

Beyond how it works, it is also relevant to know some of its effects. In the short term and with the first consumptions, it is usual that the initial consumption of small doses can alleviate depressive symptoms and increase mood.

Activation of the locus coeruleus also facilitates activation, and increases in levels of wakefulness, ability to concentrate, and sense of coping may appear to occur. However, it can also cause palpitations, dizziness and respiratory problems.

However, as consumption becomes more frequent, worse and worse consequences are seen. In the first place, the progressive tolerance to nicotine has as a result that a dependence on the substance ends up, initially physical and later also psychic.

Lack of tobacco will lead to withdrawal, usually in the form of discomfort and anxiety. Increased appetite, listlessness, headaches, and sleep problems are also observed.

In abstinence, concentration problems can also appear. It also alters the capacity for olfactory and taste perception, damaging these senses.

The effect of nicotine on the neocortex has been observed, especially in the long term, as problematic and negative. Several studies suggest that tobacco use weakens and deteriorates the nerve cells in this part of the brain, causing a reduction in their thickness due to the higher mortality of nerve fibers.

This factor can be linked to a higher probability of cognitive decline and even dementia. It has also been seen that the formation of new neurons is reduced.

In case of pregnancy, it has been observed that smoking can lead to prematurity and low weight, as well as delays in growth and cognitive development of the child.

They also greatly affect the vasoconstrictor abilities of nicotine, something that can facilitate the onset of stroke. Now, nicotine (not smoking) seems to have positive effects in preventing Parkinson’s, although this is still under study.

If we also take into account the possible effect of the presence of carbon monoxide (common in tobacco combustion), it also hinders oxygenation of the brain and can cause demyelination of the nervous system (loss of myelin, which translates into loss of speed in the transmission of information between neurons)

Likewise, although in the initial moments it generated stimulation, in the long run it can generate problems such as depression.

At a less biological and more psychological level, unsuccessful efforts to quit can also lead to a feeling of helplessness or ineffectiveness, or even more harmful substances may be resorted to.

Does Tobacco Kill Brain Cells? - NeuroTray (2)

So, does tobacco kill brain cells?

Researchers at the University of Edinburgh (UK) analyzed MRI data from 504 men and women with an average age of 73 years, half of whom were smokers or former smokers. Examination of these tests showed that the cerebral cortex of smokers lost some of its thickness at a higher rate than in those who avoided tobacco throughout their lives.

Other studies, such as the one published in the journal Nature, maintain that tobacco damages the cerebral cortex in the long term, a process that is accelerated due to the prolonged use of drugs such as nicotine.

The research is part of a larger British project to investigate the brain called The Disconnected Mind. “We all know that tobacco is harmful to the lungs and the heart, but it is important that we understand that it also damages the brain,” said the project’s chief scientist, James Goodwin.

Besides those mentioned, there are other effects like adrenaline (epinephrine) secretion in the brain. Epinephrine stimulates the central nervous system and increases blood pressure, respiration, and heart rate. Nicotine also stimulates the production of large amounts of dopamine. All of this causes addiction to tobacco.

FAQS: Does tobacco kill brain cells?

Does tobacco cause brain damage?

Smoking accelerates the aging process of the brain and can worsen the ability to make decisions and solve problems, according to a study published in the journal Molecular Psychiatry.

What does tobacco do to you mentally?

The compound in tobacco that prevents you smoking is nicotine. Within seconds of inhaling a puff, it hits the brain. Nicotine boosts the release of brain chemicals called neurotransmitters in the brain, which help influence mood and actions.

Does nicotine affect brain function?

When a person consumes nicotine, cholinergic receptors in the brain are activated. These cause a release of dopamine to occur. This is a neurotransmitter related to feelings of motivation and pleasure.

Is nicotine good for your brain?

No, nicotine works like addictive drugs in the brain

Such activity is believed to contribute significantly to the feelings of pleasure and reward associated with drugs and, over time, to the addiction and vulnerability caused by withdrawal.

Why am I so angry after quitting smoking?

Common withdrawal symptoms associated with quitting includes anger, frustration, and irritability.

Today we answered the question ‘’Does tobacco kill brain cells?’’ We discovered the mental effects of smoking, what happens to the brain while we smoke and how this affects the neurons.

If you have any questions or comments please let us know!

References

Kühn, S., Schubert, F., & Gallinat, J. (2010). Reduced Thickness of Medial Orbitofrontal Cortex in Smokers. Biological Psychiatry, 68(11), 1061–1065. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.biopsych.2010.08.004

Goriounova, N. A., & Mansvelder, H. D. (2012). Short- and Long-Term Consequences of Nicotine Exposure during Adolescence for Prefrontal Cortex Neuronal Network Function. Cold Spring Harbor Perspectives in Medicine, 2(12), a012120–a012120. https://doi.org/10.1101/cshperspect.a012120

Durazzo, T. C., Meyerhoff, D. J., & Nixon, S. J. (2010). Chronic Cigarette Smoking: Implications for Neurocognition and Brain Neurobiology. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, 7(10), 3760–3791. https://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph7103760

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FAQs

Does smoking tobacco kill brain cells? ›

We found that smokers had a thinner cerebral cortex than non-smokers – in other words, smoking was destroying the grey matter in smokers. This is important because the cerebral cortex is a part of the brain that is crucial for thinking skills including memory and learning, so thicker is better.

Does tobacco cause brain damage? ›

People with higher levels of a nicotine byproduct in their blood scored lower on a test for a wide range of brain functions, regardless of whether they had other health conditions known to affect cognition, according to new research.

Does nicotine remove brain cells? ›

In an experiment on rats, nicotine reduced levels of a protein responsible for memory and learning. It also increased brain cell death and reduced the production of new brain cells. Those factors are important throughout a person's life, especially after a bump on the head.

Does nicotine shrink brain? ›

Scientists from the Montreal Neurological Institute at McGill University and the University of Edinburgh report new evidence that long-term smoking could cause thinning of the brain's cortex. This outer layer of the brain is where critical cognitive functions such as memory, language, and perception take place.

Do brain cells grow back? ›

And one of the most exciting and important recent discoveries is that brain cells DO regenerate throughout your entire life. We now know that neurogenesis — the formation of new brain cells — is not only possible, it happens every day.

What kills your brain cells? ›

Blows to the brain, or the damage caused by a stroke, can kill neurons outright or slowly starve them of the oxygen and nutrients they need to survive. Spinal cord injury can disrupt communication between the brain and muscles when neurons lose their connection to axons located below the site of injury.

Why do people smoke? ›

About 80–90% of people who smoke regularly are addicted to nicotine. Nicotine reaches your brain within 10 seconds of when it enters your body. It causes the brain to release adrenaline, and that creates a buzz of pleasure and energy.

Does smoking affect memory? ›

Smokers' working memory ability and cognitive efficiency are significantly lower than non-smokers, so people should pay attention to smoking and memory impairment [26]. However, some researchers find that working memory and ability of the short-term smokers were improved compared to that of the non-smokers [27].

Does nicotine cause dementia? ›

Smoking was also one of the 12 modifiable risk factors highlighted in the 2020 Lancet Commission on dementia risk. Overall, systematic reviews have estimated that there smoking confers between a 30-50% increased risk of developing dementia.

What are the benefits of nicotine? ›

Clinical trials suggest that nicotine can reduce appetite and weight gain, increase brain receptors, and decrease the risk of Alzheimer's and Parkinson's disease. Nicotine has also proven beneficial for health conditions including ADHD, depression, anxiety disorders, and dementia.

Can nicotine brain damage be reversed? ›

Damage to the brain's outer layer caused by smoking may be reversible after quitting, but it could take years, a study said. Brain scans of 500 Scottish septuagenarians confirmed a link between smoking and an acceleration of age-related thinning of the cortex—the outer layer of grey matter, researchers reported.

Does nicotine cut off oxygen to the brain? ›

At just 12 hours after kicking the habit, the oxygen uptake and blood flow in the brain decrease significantly compared to never-smokers. This could explain why it is so difficult to say goodbye to nicotine once and for all. The findings have been published in the Journal of Cerebral Blood Flow & Metabolism.

Does nicotine improve memory? ›

Nicotine has been shown to improve attention, learning, and memory. In this trial, researchers will test whether nicotine delivered via a transdermal (skin) patch improves memory performance in older adults who are have mild cognitive impairment.

Can vaping damage brain? ›

Its use can be harmful to parts of the brain that control mood, learning, attention, and impulse control. Nicotine negatively affects how synapses—connections between brain cells—are formed. Many devices also produce vapor containing lead, which can cause brain damage.

How can I increase my brain cells? ›

Here are five things I recommend to my patients in order of importance:
  1. Exercise regularly. The first thing I tell my patients is to keep exercising. ...
  2. Get plenty of sleep. Sleep plays an important role in your brain health. ...
  3. Eat a Mediterranean diet. ...
  4. Stay mentally active. ...
  5. Remain socially involved.
12 Jun 2020

How can I repair my brain cells naturally? ›

Natural Therapies for Healing Brain Damage
  1. Physical therapy. Movement is one of the best, all-natural remedies for brain injury recovery. ...
  2. Occupational therapy. ...
  3. Aquatic therapy. ...
  4. Electroacupuncture. ...
  5. Cognitive therapy.
29 Dec 2021

Can a damaged brain repair itself? ›

And the answer is yes. The brain is incredibly resilient and possesses the ability to repair itself through the process of neuroplasticity. This phenomenon is the reason why many brain injury survivors can make astounding recoveries.

How can I rejuvenate my brain? ›

Rewiring your brain might sound pretty complicated, but it's absolutely something you can do at home.
  1. Play video games. Yes, you read that right. ...
  2. Learn a new language. Ever considered studying another language? ...
  3. Make some music. Music has several brain benefits. ...
  4. Travel. ...
  5. Exercise. ...
  6. Make art.
16 Jun 2020

Can alcohol destroy brain cells? ›

Alcohol does kill brain cells. Some of those cells can be regenerated over time. In the meantime, the existing nerve cells branch out to compensate for the lost functions. This damage may be permanent.

What does losing brain cells feel like? ›

It causes headaches, confusion, memory problems, and nausea. In a moderate brain injury, symptoms can last longer and be more pronounced. In both cases, most patients make a good recovery, although even in mild brain injury 15% of people will have persistent problems after one year.

How do you stop losing brain cells? ›

Here are 12 ways you can help maintain brain function.
  1. Get mental stimulation. ...
  2. Get physical exercise. ...
  3. Improve your diet. ...
  4. Improve your blood pressure. ...
  5. Improve your blood sugar. ...
  6. Improve your cholesterol. ...
  7. Consider low-dose aspirin. ...
  8. Avoid tobacco.

What is a king cigarette? ›

84mm cigarettes are also known as King size cigarettes and are typically 3 - 3 1/4 inches in length. These are the most popular size cigarettes and are the size right below 100mm. The overall length of the cigarette is longer than the 70mm due to a filter that is attached on one end of the cigarette.

Who invented smoking? ›

6,000 BC – Native Americans first start cultivating the tobacco plant. Circa 1 BC – Indigenous American tribes start smoking tobacco in religious ceremonies and for medicinal purposes. 1492 – Christopher Columbus first encounters dried tobacco leaves. They were given to him as a gift by the American Indians.

Is tobacco a drug? ›

Tobacco is a plant (Nicotiana tabacum and Nicotiana rustica) that contains nicotine, an addictive drug with both stimulant and depressant effects.

Do smokers get Alzheimer's? ›

A 2019 Lancet Commission on dementia prevention ranked smoking as third among nine modifiable risk factors for dementia. A recent review of 37 research studies found that compared to never smokers, current smokers were 30% more likely to develop dementia in general and 40% more likely to develop Alzheimer's disease.

Does tobacco help you focus? ›

When a person smokes, nicotine reaches the brain within about ten seconds. At first, nicotine improves mood and concentration, decreases anger and stress, relaxes muscles and reduces appetite.

How long does nicotine stay in your system? ›

Generally, nicotine will leaves your blood within 1 to 3 days after you stop using tobacco, and cotinine will be gone after 1 to 10 days. Neither nicotine nor cotinine will be detectable in your urine after 3 to 4 days of stopping tobacco products.

Does tobacco prevent Alzheimer's? ›

Early Studies Were Biased

Smoking is linked with heart and lung disease, but what about the relationship between smoking and dementia? Early studies exploring the risk for dementia among smokers concluded that smoking actually decreased the likelihood of developing Alzheimer's disease.

Does nicotine age the skin? ›

Nicotine, other chemicals in cigarettes, smoking behaviors and other factors may contribute to wrinkles and premature aging of the skin: Nicotine causes blood vessels to narrow, reducing oxygen flow and nutrients to skin cells.

Does napping cause Alzheimer's? ›

CLEVELAND – A recent study has found that older adults who regularly nap for more than an hour a day had a 40% higher risk of developing Alzheimer's disease.

Can nicotine brain damage be reversed? ›

Damage to the brain's outer layer caused by smoking may be reversible after quitting, but it could take years, a study said. Brain scans of 500 Scottish septuagenarians confirmed a link between smoking and an acceleration of age-related thinning of the cortex—the outer layer of grey matter, researchers reported.

Does drinking alcohol kill brain cells? ›

Alcohol does kill brain cells. Some of those cells can be regenerated over time. In the meantime, the existing nerve cells branch out to compensate for the lost functions. This damage may be permanent.

How does nicotine damage cells? ›

Nicotine Induces DNA Damage in Human Cells.

Many tobacco-specific nitrosamines that result from the nitrosation of nicotine, such as NNN and NNK, are potent carcinogens and can induce cancer in different organs, including the lung (20, 21, 27).

How can I increase my brain cells? ›

Here are five things I recommend to my patients in order of importance:
  1. Exercise regularly. The first thing I tell my patients is to keep exercising. ...
  2. Get plenty of sleep. Sleep plays an important role in your brain health. ...
  3. Eat a Mediterranean diet. ...
  4. Stay mentally active. ...
  5. Remain socially involved.
12 Jun 2020

Is nicotine a brain poison? ›

Nicotine is one of the most toxic of all poisons. It can rewire the brain, particularly vulnerable in the developing years, from adolescence to mid-twenties. In what ways? Nicotine changes the teen brain and affects attention, learning, and memory.

Is nicotine good for memory? ›

Nicotine has been shown to improve attention, learning, and memory. In this trial, researchers will test whether nicotine delivered via a transdermal (skin) patch improves memory performance in older adults who are have mild cognitive impairment.

What are the benefits of nicotine? ›

Clinical trials suggest that nicotine can reduce appetite and weight gain, increase brain receptors, and decrease the risk of Alzheimer's and Parkinson's disease. Nicotine has also proven beneficial for health conditions including ADHD, depression, anxiety disorders, and dementia.

Does alcohol lower your IQ? ›

Individuals with alcohol-related disorders have a lower intelligence test score both in young adulthood and in late midlife, and these disorders, moreover, seem to be associated with more age-related decline in intelligence test scores.

Does one beer kill brain cells? ›

Does Alcohol Kill Brain Cells? It is a myth that drinking kills brain cells.

Which alcohol is good for brain? ›

Brain benefits of moderate drinking

Other studies have linked the resveratrol found in red wine to heart and brain health benefits, and suggest that regular moderate consumption of red wine may slow aging.

Is it better to vape or smoke? ›

1: Vaping is less harmful than smoking, but it's still not safe. E-cigarettes heat nicotine (extracted from tobacco), flavorings and other chemicals to create an aerosol that you inhale. Regular tobacco cigarettes contain 7,000 chemicals, many of which are toxic.

Is smoking once a week OK? ›

No. Even one cigarette a week is bad for your health. Each cigarette you smoke exposes you to nicotine and other harmful chemicals and increases your risk for heart disease and cancer. The negative effects of smoking add up over the course of your life.

Is one cigarette a day harmful? ›

Conclusions Smoking only about one cigarette per day carries a risk of developing coronary heart disease and stroke much greater than expected: around half that for people who smoke 20 per day. No safe level of smoking exists for cardiovascular disease.

Can damaged brain cells recover? ›

And the answer is yes. The brain is incredibly resilient and possesses the ability to repair itself through the process of neuroplasticity. This phenomenon is the reason why many brain injury survivors can make astounding recoveries.

Is coffee good for brain? ›

In addition, caffeine has many positive actions on the brain. It can increase alertness and well-being, help concentration, improve mood and limit depression. Caffeine may disturb sleep, but only in sensitive individuals.

Which fruit is best for brain? ›

Certain fruits such as oranges, bell peppers, guava, kiwi, tomatoes, and strawberries, contain high amounts of vitamin C. Vitamin C helps prevent brain cells from becoming damaged and supports overall brain health. In fact, a study found that vitamin C can potentially prevent Alzheimer's.

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