Compared to the substantial volume of research on the general health consequences associated with chronic smoking, little research has been specifically devoted to the investigation of its effects on human neurobiology and neurocognition. This review summarizes the peer-reviewed literature on the neurocognitive and neurobiological implications of chronic cigarette smoking in cohorts that were not seeking treatment for substance use or psychiatric disorders. Studies that specifically assessed the neurocognitive or neurobiological (with emphasis on computed tomography and magnetic resonance-based neuroimaging studies) consequences of chronic
smoking are highlighted. Chronic cigarette smoking appears to be associated with deficiencies in executive functions, cognitive flexibility, general intellectual abilities, learning and/or memory processing speed, and working memory. Chronic smoking is related to global brain atrophy and to structural and biochemical abnormalities in anterior frontal regions, subcortical nuclei and commissural white matter. Chronic smoking may also be associated with an increased risk for various forms of neurodegenerative diseases. The existing literature is limited by inconsistent accounting for potentially confounding biomedical and psychiatric conditions, focus on cross-sectional studies with middle aged and older adults and the absence of studies concurrently assessing neurocognitive, neurobiological and genetic factors in the same cohort. Consequently, the mechanisms promoting the neurocognitive and neurobiological abnormalities reported in chronic smokers are unclear. Longitudinal studies are needed to determine if the smoking-related neurobiological and neurocognitive abnormalities increase over time and/or show recovery with sustained smoking cessation.