Electronic Cigarette Vaping Did Not Enhance the Neural Process of Working Memory for Regular Cigarette Smokers

Dong Youl Kim, Yujin Jang, Da Woon Heo, Sungman Jo, Hyun Chul Kim, Jong Hwan Lee

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: Electronic cigarettes (e-cigs) as substitute devices for regular tobacco cigarettes (r-cigs) have been increasing in recent times. We investigated neuronal substrates of vaping e-cigs and smoking r-cigs from r-cig smokers. Methods: Twenty-two r-cig smokers made two visits following overnight smoking cessation. Functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) data were acquired while participants watched smoking images. Participants were then allowed to smoke either an e-cig or r-cig until satiated and fMRI data were acquired. Their craving levels and performance on the Montreal Imaging Stress Task and a 3-back alphabet/digit recognition task were obtained and analyzed using two-way repeated-measures analysis of variance. Regions-of-interest (ROIs) were identified by comparing the abstained and satiated conditions. Neuronal activation within ROIs was regressed on the craving and behavioral data separately. Results: Craving was more substantially reduced by smoking r-cigs than by vaping e-cigs. The response time (RT) for the 3-back task was significantly shorter following smoking r-cigs than following vaping e-cigs (interaction: F (1, 17) = 5.3, p = 0.035). Neuronal activations of the right vermis (r = 0.43, p = 0.037, CI = [-0.05, 0.74]), right caudate (r = 0.51, p = 0.015, CI = [0.05, 0.79]), and right superior frontal gyrus (r = −0.70, p = 0.001, CI = [−0.88, −0.34]) were significantly correlated with the RT for the 3-back task only for smoking r-cigs. Conclusion: Our findings suggest that insufficient satiety from vaping e-cigs for r-cigs smokers may be insignificant effect on working memory function.

Original languageEnglish
Article number817538
JournalFrontiers in Human Neuroscience
Publication statusPublished - 2022 Feb 18

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This work was supported by the grants from the National Research Foundation (NRF) and MSIP of Korea (2015R1A2A2A03004462, 2016M3C7A1914450, 2017R1E1A1A01077288, and 2021M3E5D2A01022515), and in part by a National Research Council of Science & Technology (NST) grant from the Korean government (MSIT) (No. CAP-18-01-KIST).

Publisher Copyright:
Copyright © 2022 Kim, Jang, Heo, Jo, Kim and Lee.


  • abstinence
  • electronic cigarette
  • functional magnetic resonance imaging
  • satiety
  • tobacco cigarettes
  • working memory

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuropsychology and Physiological Psychology
  • Neurology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health
  • Biological Psychiatry
  • Behavioral Neuroscience


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