Neuroanatomical correlates of impulsive choices and risky decision making in young chronic tobacco smokers: a voxel-based morphometry study

Aldo Alberto Conti*, Alexander Mario Baldacchino

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Introduction: Impairments in the multifaceted neuropsychological construct of cognitive impulsivity are a main feature of chronic tobacco smokers. According to the literature, these cognitive impairments are relevant for the initiation andmaintenance of the smoking behavior. However, the neuroanatomical correlates of cognitive impulsivity in chronic smokers remain under-investigated.
Methods: A sample of 28 chronic smokers (mean age = 28 years) not affectedby polysubstance dependence and 24 matched non-smoker controls was recruited. Voxel Based Morphometry (VBM) was employed to assess Gray Matter (GM) volume differences between smokers and non-smokers. The relationships between GM volume and behavioral manifestations of impulsive choices (5 trial adjusting delay discounting task, ADT-5) and risky decision making (Cambridge Gambling Task, CGT) were also investigated. 
Results: VBM results revealed GM volume reductions in cortical and striatal brainregions of chronic smokers compared to non-smokers. Additionally, smokers showed heightened impulsive choices (p < 0.01, Cohen’s f = 0.50) and a riskier decision- making process (p < 0.01, Cohen’s f = 0.40) compared to non-smokers. GM volume reductions in the left Anterior Cingulate Cortex (ACC) correlated with impaired impulsive and risky choices, while GM volume reductions in the left Ventrolateral Prefrontal Cortex (VLPFC) and Caudate correlated with heightened impulsive choices. Reduced GM volume in the left VLPFC correlated with younger age at smoking initiation (mean = 16 years). 
Conclusion: Smokers displayed significant GM volume reductions and related cognitive impulsivity impairments compared to non-smoker individuals. Longitudinal studies would be required to assess whether these impairments underline neurocognitive endophenotypes or if they are a consequence of tobacco exposure on the adolescent brain.
Original languageEnglish
Article number708925
Number of pages11
JournalFrontiers in Psychiatry
Publication statusPublished - 30 Aug 2021


  • Neuropsychology
  • Nicotine
  • Adolescents
  • Impulsivity
  • Tobacco
  • Addictions
  • Neuroimaging


Dive into the research topics of 'Neuroanatomical correlates of impulsive choices and risky decision making in young chronic tobacco smokers: a voxel-based morphometry study'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this