Interactive effects of chronic cigarette smoking and age on brain volumes in controls and alcohol-dependent individuals in early abstinence

Addict Biol. 2014 Jan;19(1):132-43. doi: 10.1111/j.1369-1600.2012.00492.x. Epub 2012 Sep 3.


Chronic alcohol-use disorders (AUDs) have been shown to interact with normal age-related volume loss to exacerbate brain atrophy with increasing age. However, chronic cigarette smoking, a highly co-morbid condition in AUD and its influence on age-related brain atrophy have not been evaluated. We performed 1.5 T quantitative magnetic resonance imaging in non-smoking controls [non-smoking light drinking controls (nsCONs); n = 54], smoking light drinking controls (sCONs, n = 34), and one-week abstinent, treatment-seeking alcohol-dependent (ALC) non-smokers (nsALCs, n = 35) and smokers (sALCs, n = 43), to evaluate the independent and interactive effects of alcohol dependence and chronic smoking on regional cortical and subcortical brain volumes, emphasizing the brain reward/executive oversight system (BREOS). The nsCONs and sALCs showed greater age-related volume losses than the nsALCs in the dorsal prefrontal cortex (DPFC), total cortical BREOS, superior parietal lobule and putamen. The nsALCs and sALCs demonstrated smaller volumes than the nsCONs in most cortical region of interests (ROIs). The sCONs had smaller volumes than the nsCONs in the DPFC, insula, inferior parietal lobule, temporal pole/parahippocampal region and all global cortical measures. The nsALCs and sALCs had smaller volumes than the sCONs in the DPFC, superior temporal gyrus, inferior and superior parietal lobules, precuneus and all global cortical measures. Volume differences between the nsALCs and sALCs were observed only in the putamen. Alcohol consumption measures were not related to volumes in any ROI for ALC; smoking severity measures were related to corpus callosum volume in the sCONs and sALCs. The findings indicate that consideration of smoking status is necessary for a better understanding of the factors contributing to regional brain atrophy in AUD.

Keywords: Alcohol dependence; brain reward system; brain volume; cigarette smoking; magnetic resonance imaging.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Age Factors
  • Aged
  • Aging / pathology
  • Alcoholic Beverages / statistics & numerical data
  • Alcoholism / epidemiology
  • Alcoholism / pathology*
  • Analysis of Variance
  • Atrophy / epidemiology
  • Brain / pathology*
  • Case-Control Studies
  • Chronic Disease
  • Comorbidity
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Interview, Psychological
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging / methods
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Organ Size / physiology
  • Patient Acceptance of Health Care
  • Psychiatric Status Rating Scales
  • Reward
  • Severity of Illness Index
  • Smoking / epidemiology
  • Smoking / pathology*
  • Temperance*