The Daily MailWhy there’s no such thing as a ‘calming cigarette’: Smokers are 70% more likely to suffer from anxiety and depression - but quitting can reverse the damage

  1. Quitting smoking could help people combat anxiety and depression
  2. A year after quitting, smokers’ anxiety levels were same as non-smokers
  3. Previous study found quitting has same benefits as taking antidepressants

Smokers are around 70 per cent more likely to suffer from depression and anxiety, a study has revealed.

Researchers said quitting smoking could help people combat the conditions, thereby improving their mental health.

They found that levels of anxiety and depression reported by long-term ex-smokers were indistinguishable from people who have never smoked.

They were also much lower than current smokers.

The study looked at 6,500 people over the age of 40.

It found that 18.3 per cent of smokers reported suffering depression and anxiety, compared with 10 per cent of non-smokers and 11.3 per cent of ex-smokers.

The research, described as the first of its kind to compare the prevalence of anxiety and depression in smokers, non-smokers, and long-term ex-smokers.

The latter group is defined as smokers who have quit for longer than a year.

Experts behind the new study said it dispels the commonly-held perception that lighting up helps relieves stress.

Lead researcher Robert West, professor of health psychology at UCL (University College London), said: ‘Our study found that long-term ex-smokers have similar prevalence of anxiety and depression to non-smokers and considerably lower levels than smokers.

'Quitting smoking could be the key to improving not only your physical health, but your mental health too.'

The British Heart Foundation (BHF) released the findings ahead of No Smoking Day on March 11.

Associate medical director of the charity, Dr Mike Knapton, said: ‘There is a belief from many smokers that smoking reduces anxiety and stress, which is in turn causing many smokers to put off quitting.

'Yet, instead of aiding people to relax, smoking increases anxiety and tension.

'When smokers light up, the feeling of reduced stress or relaxation is temporary and is soon replaced by withdrawal symptoms and cravings.

'While smoking temporarily reduces these cravings and feelings of withdrawal - which are similar to feeling anxious or stressed - it does not reduce or treat the underlying causes of stress.'

Nearly one in five UK adults smoke, according to the BHF.

Research published last year found that quitting smoking can be just as effective in tackling depression and anxiety as taking antidepressants.

In fact, the effect of quitting was the same, if not bigger, than for the tablets.

The team, from the universities of Birmingham, Oxford, and King’s College London, analysed 26 studies for their research.

Writing online in the British Medical Journal (BMJ), they said they found people who quit smoking experienced a significant drop in anxiety, depression and stress.

The effect was the same among the general population of smokers as those with a diagnosed mental health problem.

The researchers said: ‘Both psychological quality of life and positive affect significantly increased between baseline and follow-up in quitters compared with continuing smokers.

'Smoking cessation is associated with reduced depression, anxiety, and stress and improved positive mood and quality of life compared with continuing to smoke.'

Picture credit: jimherrington.tumblr.com

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Jan Scheuermann, a quadriplegic and pioneering patient for an experimental Pentagon robotics program, continues to break ground in freeing the mind from the body. 

The 55-year-old mother of two in 2012 agreed to let surgeons implant electrodes on her brain to control a robotic arm. More recently, she flew an F-35 Joint Strike Fighter simulator using nothing but her thoughts, an official said.

Human Brains Age Less than Previously Thought

Full article at NeuroscienceNews.com.

Older brains may be more similar to younger brains than previously thought. In a new paper published in Human Brain Mapping, BBSRC-funded researchers at the University of Cambridge and Medical Research Council’s Cognition and Brain Sciences Unit demonstrate that previously reported changes in the ageing brain using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) may be due to vascular (or blood vessels) changes, rather than changes in neuronal activity itself.

The research is in Human Brain Mapping. (full open access)

Research: “The effect of ageing on fMRI: Correction for the confounding effects of vascular reactivity evaluated by joint fMRI and MEG in 335 adults” by Kamen A. Tsvetanov, Richard N. A. Henson, Lorraine K. Tyler, Simon W. Davis, Meredith A. Shafto, Jason R. Taylor2,3, Nitin Williams, Cam-CAN andJames B. Rowe in Human Brain Mapping doi:10.1002/hbm.22768

Image: The research showed that age differences in signal amplitude during a task are of a vascular, not neuronal, origin. The image is for illustrative purposes only. Image credit: holdentrils.

Researchers Map ‘Switches’ That Shaped the Evolution of the Human Brain

Full article at NeuroscienceNews.com.

Thousands of genetic “dimmer” switches, regions of DNA known as regulatory elements, were turned up high during human evolution in the developing cerebral cortex, according to new research from the Yale School of Medicine.

The research is in Science. (full access paywall)

Research: “Evolutionary changes in promoter and enhancer activity during human corticogenesis” by Steven K. Reilly, Jun Yin, Albert E. Ayoub, Deena Emera, Jing Leng, Justin Cotney, Richard Sarro, Pasko Rakic, and James P. Noonan in Science DOI:10.1126/science.1260943

Image: The team used BrainSpan, a digital atlas of gene expression in the brain, to identify groups of genes that showed coordinated expression in the cerebral cortex. This image is for illustrative purposes only. Image credit: US Government.