Short- and long-term consequences of nicotine exposure during adolescence for prefrontal cortex neuronal network function

Cold Spring Harb Perspect Med. 2012 Dec 1;2(12):a012120. doi: 10.1101/cshperspect.a012120.


More than 70% of adolescents report to have smoked a cigarette at least once. At the adolescent stage the brain has not completed its maturation. The prefrontal cortex (PFC), the brain area responsible for executive functions and attention performance, is one of the last brain areas to mature and is still developing during adolescence. Smoking during adolescence increases the risk of developing psychiatric disorders and cognitive impairment in later life. In addition, adolescent smokers suffer from attention deficits, which aggravate with the years of smoking. Recent studies in rodents reveal the molecular changes induced by adolescent nicotine exposure that alter the functioning of synapses in the PFC and that underlie the lasting effects on cognitive function. Here we provide an overview of these recent findings.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Animals
  • Brain Diseases / chemically induced*
  • Brain Diseases / physiopathology
  • Cognition Disorders / chemically induced
  • Cognition Disorders / physiopathology
  • Executive Function / drug effects
  • Ganglionic Stimulants / adverse effects*
  • Humans
  • Nerve Net / drug effects
  • Neurons / drug effects*
  • Nicotine / adverse effects*
  • Prefrontal Cortex / drug effects*
  • Rats
  • Smoking / adverse effects*
  • Synapses / drug effects
  • Up-Regulation


  • Ganglionic Stimulants
  • Nicotine