Much has already been said about the dangers of smoking cigarettes. Everyone knows the negative effects of nicotine and tobacco smoke on the respiratory, nervous and cardiovascular systems. However, a recent study by American scientists suggests that even a couple of cigarette puffs in adolescence cause irreversible changes in the brain, which can lead to not very pleasant consequences in the future.
What is the main danger of cigarettes
In addition to unhealthy resins and productsburning, the main hazardous substance contained in cigarettes is nicotine. Nicotine is a strong neuroactive substance, that is, its target is brain cells. In addition, nicotine also causes a very strong dependence. This happens, in general terms, as follows: in the brain there are special nicotinic receptors, acting on which, a special substance called dopamine is released. Dopamine is also called the “hormone of joy”, because when it is released, a person experiences pleasant sensations.
Where do these receptors in the brain come from? Everything is simple: the fact is that nicotine and nicotinic acid are necessary products for the maintenance of our body’s vital functions and are normally synthesized in small quantities. However, when smoking, the concentration of this substance in the blood increases many times and there is a "replacement" of nicotine, which is formed in the body, by nicotine, which comes from outside. Thus, the formation of nicotine addiction occurs.
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What is dangerous the presence of nicotine addiction
A new study by Dr. BaderChaarani from the University of Vermont, and published in the journal Biological Psychiatry: Cognitive Neuroscience and Neuroimaging, showed that teenagers who smoked only a few cigarettes had fewer synapses in the brain than their peers who had never smoked. Synapses are special structures that are responsible for the interconnection of brain regions and its structures with each other. Roughly speaking, the more of them - the better and more productive our brain works. This may mean that the brains of adolescent smokers will develop and function differently, which can affect decision-making and self-control in adulthood.
In addition, adolescence is veryvulnerable period of development during which exposure to nicotine can fundamentally change the work of the entire central nervous system. The effects of nicotine on adults have less negative effects. This is due to the fact that our brain develops during the first three decades of life. During this period of maturation, the brain chains are rearranged, especially those that are involved in the reward function (already mentioned dopamine) and in the processes of thinking and perception.
At the same time, studies have shown thatadolescent smokers, symptoms of nicotine addiction appear at lower levels of nicotine than in adults, who begin to smoke at the end of the second decade of life.
Essence of the work
Dr. Chaarani’s research team scoredmore than 600 adolescents aged 14 and counted the number of cigarettes smoked for each participant in the experiment. Among the participants were those who never smoked, and those who smoked 40 or more cigarettes.
The researchers studied the brains of each of the teensusing functional magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). These images were used to estimate the amount of gray matter in the brain, which helps to determine how well certain parts of the brain are connected to each other. Dr. Chaarani and the team found that smoking even a few cigarettes caused a significant decrease in the volume of gray matter, and therefore a decrease in the number of neuronal connections. In this case, the greater the number of cigarettes smoked by adolescents, the more there was a decrease in the volume of gray matter of the brain. By the way, such changes are also recorded in people with drug and alcohol addiction.
At the moment, scientists are focused onto better understand the effect of nicotine on adolescent brain. In addition, experts warn that the "source" of nicotine does not matter. The brain is equally affected by both nicotine from tobacco products and nicotine derived from electronic cigarettes.
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