BackgroundPrevious cross-sectional MRI studies with healthy, young-to-middle-aged adults reported no significant differences between smokers and non-smokers on total hippocampal volume. However, these studies did not specifically test for greater age-related volume loss in the total hippocampus or hippocampal subregions in smokers, and did they did not examine relationships between hippocampal and subfield volumes and episodic learning and memory performance.
MethodsHealthy, young-to-middle-aged (45 ± 12 years of age) smokers (n=39) and non-smokers (n=43) were compared on total hippocampal and subfield volumes derived from high-resolution 4 Tesla MRI, emphasizing testing for greater age-related volume losses in smokers. Associations between hippocampal volumes and measures of episodic learning and memory were examined.
ResultsSmokers showed significantly smaller volumes, as well as greater volume loss with increasing age than non-smokers in the bilateral total hippocampus and multiple subfields. In smokers, greater pack-years were associated with smaller volumes of the total hippocampus, presubiculum, and subiculum. In the entire cohort, performance on measures of learning and memory was related to larger total hippocampal and several subfield volumes, predominately in the left hemisphere.
ConclusionsChronic cigarette smoking in this young-to-middle aged cohort was associated with smaller total hippocampal and subfield volumes, which were exacerbated by advancing age. Findings also indicated an adverse smoking dose/duration response (i.e., pack-years) with total hippocampal and select subfield volumes. These hippocampal volume abnormalities in smokers may be related to the deficiencies in episodic learning and memory in young-to-middle-aged smokers reported in previous studies.