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Vaping news: Study shows nicotine stimulates alpha brain waves, creativity

Have you ever noticed that so many of Hollywood’s movie stars tend to smoke tobacco cigarettes – or more recently – vape e-liquids with fancy box mods?  Marilyn Monroe, Humphrey Bogart, and today’s Leonardo DiCaprio are just a few examples.  Famous musicians like Bob Dylan, Willy Nelson, and even Louis Armstrong were also avid smokers.  And when it comes to smoking marijuana, Snoop Dog is perhaps more famous for his weed than his music.

Even after the U.S. Surgeon Generals announced way back in the 1960s that smoking is hazardous to your health, artistic and imaginative people are still very often caught smoking on camera.  There may be a scientific explanation for this socially unacceptable behavior among right-brained people.  New research published by scientists from the Donders Institute for Brain, Cognition and Behaviour suggests that there may be a link between nicotine and enhanced creativity. 

Nicotine to boost alpha brain wave production to enhance mental clarity and focus

The trouble with smoking, of course, is that the burning of tobacco leaves causes a toxic smoke that – when inhaled – clogs the arteries and lungs with a nasty, gooey tar.  This tar can cause all sorts of cardiovascular and respiratory disorders.  Furthermore, mass-produced combustible tobacco cigarettes are laced with nearly 7000 chemicals, about 1000 of which are extremely addictive.  At least 700 of them are also high carcinogenic.

Related Article:  Switching to vaping helps patients with severe mental illness, say scientists

Vaping is 100 percent tobacco- and chemical-free, which means that e-cigarettes are up to 95 percent less harmful than smoking, according to 2015 research published by Public Health England. The Donders Institute study entitled Tobacco smoking produces widespread dominant brain wave alpha frequency increases (NCBI) discovered that nicotine consumption – not necessarily smoking or vaping – helps to increase the production of alpha brain waves in humans. As a result of these findings, scientists around the globe are now predicting that nicotine-based medical therapies may eventually help patients suffering from cognitive disorders like Alzheimer’s Disease, dementia, and delirium.

It’s these alpha brain waves that also help increase memory, block out distractions, and improve concentration.  In other words, the research suggests that nicotine therapies help people “get into the zone,” which is crucial if someone is an actor, actress, or song writer, for example.

Overview of the Donder Institute nicotine study

Co-authors Mathilde Bonnefond and Ole Jensen began by asking a small group of eighteen smokers and non-smokers to engage in a series of memory tests.  Each participant was first asked to memorize a combination of four letters that flashed quickly on a viewing monitor within a matter of a few seconds.  All the while, Bonnefond and Jensen were monitoring and recording their baseline alpha brain wave production levels. 

The experiment went like this.  The researchers would flash each of the four letters on-screen in randomized order.  A fifth and different image would flash immediately thereafter.  When the sixth image was flashed, the participant had to quickly ascertain if the sixth image was part of the four-letter combination previously memorized or if it was a random image.  Everything was timed- right down to the thousandth of a millisecond.  To be top-notch, the participants needed to have a laser-like ability to focus.

Related Article:  Vanderbilt to research nicotine therapies as possible cure for Alzheimer’s

Pictorials used for the fifth image were divided into two categories:  Strong distractors (another letter that had a strong physical resemblance to one of the memorized four-letter combination) and weak distractors (these images could be literally anything at all).  At the end of the test, the results were carefully analyzed and compared.

What the scientists learned is that the smoking group had much higher scores compared to the non-smoking group.  The smokers were not only much quicker and more accurate in their responses, but they also produced a greater level of alpha brain waves.  Bonnefond and Jensen believe that the smokers were better able to avoid distractions and concentrate more effectively due to their ingestion of nicotine on a regular basis. 

"...after the subjects smoked a favorite tobacco cigarette there was a significant generalized increase in dominant alpha EEG frequencies in most scalp recording sites. This study demonstrates that tobacco smoking produces widespread bilateral neocortical increases in dominant alpha EEG frequencies consistent with the stimulant effects of nicotine on the brainstem reticular activating system."

There is an additional study that also supports this theory involving nicotine and cognitive capabilities.  Entitled Alpha Oscillations Serve to Protect Working Memory Maintenance against Anticipated Distracters, this study is available via Science News

Related Article:   Dementia advocacy group to spend $9.4 million on nicotine therapy research

(Image courtesy of Arthipo)

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