People who give up smoking generally experience a significant improvement in memory, apart from enjoying substantial overall health benefits, researchers from Northumbria University, England reported in Drug and Alcohol Dependence. The authors explained that when the majority of smokers quit, their pre-smoking everyday memory can eventually be restored fully.
Dr Tom Heffernan from the Collaboration for Drug and Alcohol Research Group, and team tested 27 individuals who were current regular smoker, 18 non-smokers who used to smoke, and 24 people who were lifetime non-smokers. They all underwent a real-world memory test.
According to prior studies, giving up smoking improved “retrospective memory” – a person’s ability to learn information and then retrieve it later on. This study measured “prospective memory” – a person’s ability to remember to do something at a specific future point in time.
They were taken on a tour of the university campus and asked to remember pre-determined tasks at 15 specific locations. For example, checking for messages on their mobile phones when reaching the library, or remembering to ask about the cost of membership when arriving at the sports center.
They found that:
- Current regular smokers remembered just 59% of the tasks
- Non-smoking previous smokers remembered 74%
- Lifetime non-smokers remembered 81%
The authors added that there was no difference in the IQs between each group.
Dr Tom Heffernan said:
“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.”
This is the first time that a study has set out to examine whether giving up smoking has an impact on memory.
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.”
The research team now plan to find out what impact passive smoking (second-hand smoke) might have on everyday memory and health.
Written by Christian Nordqvist