Hemispheric side of damage influences sex-related differences in smoking cessation in neurological patients

J Clin Exp Neuropsychol. 2014;36(5):551-8. doi: 10.1080/13803395.2014.915012.


Patterns of smoking behavior vary between the sexes. There is evidence that decision making, which is one of the key "executive functions" necessary for making life-style modifications such as smoking cessation, is relatively lateralized to the right hemisphere in males and left hemisphere in females. In the current study, we examined whether the side of brain lesion has a differential effect on smoking behavior between the sexes. We hypothesized sex differences in smoking cessation based on lesion side. Participants were 49 males and 50 females who were smoking at the time of lesion onset. The outcome variable was abstinence from smoking (quit rate) at least one year post lesion. We found that in patients with left-hemisphere damage, quit rates were significantly higher in males than in females; however, in patients with right-hemisphere damage, quit rates were not statistically different. The findings support previous cognitive neuroscience literature showing that components of behavior responsible for maintaining addiction tend to be more strongly lateralized in males, whereas in females there is a more bilateral distribution. Our study provides further evidence for differences in lateralization of complex behavior between the sexes, which has significant implications for differences in treatment strategies between the sexes.

Keywords: Addiction; Behavior lateralization; Drug abuse; Gender differences; Smoking cessation.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Brain / physiopathology*
  • Female
  • Functional Laterality / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Sex Characteristics
  • Smoking / physiopathology
  • Smoking / psychology*
  • Smoking Cessation / psychology*
  • Stroke / physiopathology
  • Stroke / psychology*