Electronic Cigarette Vaping Did Not Enhance the Neural Process of Working Memory for Regular Cigarette Smokers

Front Hum Neurosci. 2022 Feb 18;16:817538. doi: 10.3389/fnhum.2022.817538. eCollection 2022.


Background: Electronic cigarettes (e-cigs) as substitute devices for regular tobacco cigarettes (r-cigs) have been increasing in recent times. We investigated neuronal substrates of vaping e-cigs and smoking r-cigs from r-cig smokers.

Methods: Twenty-two r-cig smokers made two visits following overnight smoking cessation. Functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) data were acquired while participants watched smoking images. Participants were then allowed to smoke either an e-cig or r-cig until satiated and fMRI data were acquired. Their craving levels and performance on the Montreal Imaging Stress Task and a 3-back alphabet/digit recognition task were obtained and analyzed using two-way repeated-measures analysis of variance. Regions-of-interest (ROIs) were identified by comparing the abstained and satiated conditions. Neuronal activation within ROIs was regressed on the craving and behavioral data separately.

Results: Craving was more substantially reduced by smoking r-cigs than by vaping e-cigs. The response time (RT) for the 3-back task was significantly shorter following smoking r-cigs than following vaping e-cigs (interaction: F (1, 17) = 5.3, p = 0.035). Neuronal activations of the right vermis (r = 0.43, p = 0.037, CI = [-0.05, 0.74]), right caudate (r = 0.51, p = 0.015, CI = [0.05, 0.79]), and right superior frontal gyrus (r = -0.70, p = 0.001, CI = [-0.88, -0.34]) were significantly correlated with the RT for the 3-back task only for smoking r-cigs.

Conclusion: Our findings suggest that insufficient satiety from vaping e-cigs for r-cigs smokers may be insignificant effect on working memory function.

Keywords: abstinence; electronic cigarette; functional magnetic resonance imaging; satiety; tobacco cigarettes; working memory.