Chronic tobacco smoking, impaired reward-based decision-making, and role of insular cortex: a comparison between early-onset smokers and late-onset smokers

Aldo Conti*, Alexander Mario Baldacchino

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Downloads (Pure)

Abstract

Introduction: The literature suggests that tobacco smoking may have a neurotoxic effect on the developing adolescent brain. Particularly, it may impair the decision-making process of early-onset smokers (<16 years), by rendering them more prone to impulsive and risky choices toward rewards, and therefore more prone to smoking relapses, in comparison to late-onset smokers (≥16 years). However, no study has ever investigated reward-based decision-making and structural brain differences between early-onset smokers and late-onset smokers.

Methods: Computerized measures of reward-based decision-making [Cambridge Gambling Task (CGT); 5-trials adjusting delay discounting task (ADT-5)] were administered to 11 early-onset smokers (mean age at regular smoking initiation = 13.2 years), 17 late-onset smokers (mean age at regular smoking initiation = 18.0 years), and 24 non-smoker controls. Voxel-based morphometry (VBM) was utilized to investigate the gray matter (GM) and white matter (WM) volume differences in fronto-cortical and striatal brain regions between early-onset smokers, late-onset smokers, and non-smokers.

Results: Early-onset smokers displayed a riskier decision-making behavior in comparison to non-smokers as assessed by the CGT (p < 0.01, Cohen’s f = 0.48). However, no significant differences (p > 0.05) in reward-based decision-making were detected between early-onset smokers and late-onset smokers. VBM results revealed early-onset smokers to present lower GM volume in the bilateral anterior insular cortex (AI) in comparison to late-onset smokers and lower WM volume in the right AI in comparison to late-onset smokers.

Conclusion: Impairments in reward-based decision-making may not be affected by tobacco smoking initiation during early adolescence. Instead, lower GM and WM volume in the AI of early-onset smokers may underline a vulnerability to develop compulsive tobacco seeking and smoking behavior during adulthood.
Original languageEnglish
Article number939707
Number of pages18
JournalFrontiers in Psychiatry
Volume13
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 26 Aug 2022

Keywords

  • Insular cortex
  • Adolescent smokers
  • Cognitive impulsivity
  • Voxel based morphometry
  • Chronic tobacco smoking
  • Neuroimaging
  • Addiction
  • Reward-based decision-making

Fingerprint

Dive into the research topics of 'Chronic tobacco smoking, impaired reward-based decision-making, and role of insular cortex: a comparison between early-onset smokers and late-onset smokers'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this