The impact of smoking status on cognition and brain morphology in schizophrenia spectrum disorders

Elysha Ringin, Vanessa Cropley, Andrew Zalesky, Jason Bruggemann, Suresh Sundram, Cynthia Shannon Weickert, Thomas W. Weickert, Chad A. Bousman, Christos Pantelis, Tamsyn E. Van Rheenen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

4 Citations (Scopus)


Background Cigarette smoking is associated with worse cognition and decreased cortical volume and thickness in healthy cohorts. Chronic cigarette smoking is prevalent in schizophrenia spectrum disorders (SSD), but the effects of smoking status on the brain and cognition in SSD are not clear. This study aimed to understand whether cognitive performance and brain morphology differed between smoking and non-smoking individuals with SSD compared to healthy controls. Methods Data were obtained from the Australian Schizophrenia Research Bank. Cognitive functioning was measured in 299 controls and 455 SSD patients. Cortical volume, thickness and surface area data were analysed from T1-weighted structural scans obtained in a subset of the sample (n = 82 controls, n = 201 SSD). Associations between smoking status (cigarette smoker/non-smoker), cognition and brain morphology were tested using analyses of covariance, including diagnosis as a moderator. Results No smoking by diagnosis interactions were evident, and no significant differences were revealed between smokers and non-smokers across any of the variables measured, with the exception of a significantly thinner left posterior cingulate in smokers compared to non-smokers. Several main effects of smoking in the cognitive, volume and thickness analyses were initially significant but did not survive false discovery rate (FDR) correction. Conclusions Despite the general absence of significant FDR-corrected findings, trend-level effects suggest the possibility that subtle smoking-related effects exist but were not uncovered due to low statistical power. An investigation of this topic is encouraged to confirm and expand on our findings.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)3097–3115
Number of pages19
JournalPsychological Medicine
Issue number14
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2022


  • Cigarettes
  • cognitive decline
  • lifestyle
  • posterior cingulate cortex
  • surface area
  • thickness
  • volume

Cite this