A new study by researchers at Northumbria University in the UK, has found that smokers have seriously impaired prospective memory skills (the ability to remember to do tasks in the future), but those who quit smoking have significantly better prospective memory skills, at virtually the same level as non-smokers.
The new study was published in the September online issue of the journal Drug and Alcohol Dependence, and is available online through ScienceDirect.
According to the principal author of the study, Dr Tom Heffernan of the Collaboration for Drug and Alcohol Research Group at Northumbria University, Newcastle-upon-Tyne, UK, “This is the first time that a study has set out to examine whether giving up smoking has an impact on memory.”
The study “reveals that stopping smoking can restore everyday memory to virtually the same level as non-smokers,” according to a release issued September 20, 2011 by Northumbria University.
Scientists from Northumbria University’s Collaboration for Drug and Alcohol Research Group tested 27 smokers, 18 previous smokers who had quit smoking, and 24 people who had never smoked. Among the tests given was a Real World Prospective Memory Task (RWPMT), in which study participants were asked to remember to do certain assigned tasks at specific locations on a tour of the university campus.
The performance of the smokers was compared to the performance of the previous smokers and the non-smokers on these tests. In analyzing the results, the researchers controlled for certain factors which they postulated could otherwise have influenced results — including variations in age, gender, mood, IQ, alcohol use and retrospective memory scores.
After controlling for age, gender, mood, IQ, alcohol use and retrospective memory scores, the researchers found that smokers performed poorly on the Real World Prospective Memory Task (RWPMT) test, remembering only 59% of the assigned tasks, while those who had quit smoking remembered 74% of their assigned tasks. These previous smokers who had quit smoking performed comparably to those who had never smoked, who remembered 81% of the tasks assigned.
“Real-world PM [prospective memory] impairments should be added to a growing list of neuropsychological sequelae associated with persistent smoking,” the researchers concluded.
“Given that there are up to 10 million smokers in the UK and as many as 45 million in the United States, it’s important to understand the effects smoking has on everyday cognitive function – of which prospective memory is an excellent example,” said Dr Tom Heffernan, the study’s principal author.
“We already know that giving up smoking has huge health benefits for the body but this study also shows how stopping smoking can have knock-on benefits for cognitive function too,” Dr. Heffernan said.
The study report, published online in the September issue of the Drug and Alcohol Dependence journal, is available through ScienceDirect.
See also a press release about the study issued by Northumbria University on September 20, 2011.
See related HelpingYouCare™ reports on:
HHS Text4Health Task Force Recommends Health Text Messaging Initiatives (highlighting the SmokeFreeTXT program of the National Cancer Institute (NCI), and the QuitNowTXT initiative of NCI and a global public-private partnership);
$137 Million for Prevention & Health Programs is Granted to States under Affordable Care Act (primarily for states’ programs to help people quit smoking)
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