Use of nicotine when young could alter the brain and contribute to future addiction, especially among males, report University of Pittsburg researchers. The scientists discovered nicotine exposure during adolescence and young-adulthood may alter the “hard-wiring” of the brain that occurs during this time period.

The findings were reported during the 36th Annual Meeting of the Society for Neuroscience being held at the Georgia World Congress Center in Atlanta.

The research team, led by Jay W. Pettegrew, M.D., professor of psychiatry, used magnetic resonance spectroscopic imaging (MRSI) to evaluate the effects of acute nicotine administration on nerve cell membranes – the functional communication centers of the brain.

According to their findings, nicotine induced molecular and metabolic changes in the brain, which resulted in the breakdown of the nerve cell membranes.

These changes were especially observed in males. Such findings could explain what has been noted in epidemiological studies — that individuals who smoke as adolescents have a higher probability of being life-long smokers than those who start smoking later in life.

Source: University of Pittsburgh Medical Center