The research used the The Cambridge Test of Prospective Memory (CAMPROMPT)
test. This test asks participants to carry out 6 prospective memory tasks, which are cued in 2 ways: three are cued by time, three are cued by events. The prospective memory tasks includes such tasks as remembering to change tasks at a certain time and reminding the examiner to do something.
Washington University's Psychweb
defines prospective memory as the ability to remember to do things at a particular time or within a given interval of time or when a certain event happens. In other words, prospective memory is remembering to do things rather than remembering things that have already happened.
The test results, published in the journal Addiction
, compared a group of individuals that had never smoked but experienced regular exposure to secondhand smoke (SHS group), a group of active smokers (CS group) and a group of individuals that say they have never been exposed to secondhand smoke (non-SHS group). Both the non-SHS and SHS smoke groups showed much higher performance rate on the CAMPROMPT test then members of the CS group. The non-SHS group performed significantly higher then the SHS group.
In more general terms, the results of the study showed that smokers and those that were exposed to secondhand smoke performed significantly worse then those that have never been exposed to second hand smoke when it came to prospective memory.
Science Daily quotes Dr Heffernan, who helped to conduct the study, as saying:
"According to recent reports by the World Health Organization, exposure to second-hand smoke can have serious consequences on the health of people who have never smoked themselves, but who are exposed to other people's tobacco smoke. Our findings suggest that the deficits associated with second-hand smoke exposure extend to everyday cognitive function. We hope our work will stimulate further research in the field in order to gain a better understanding of the links between exposure to second-hand smoke, health problems and everyday cognitive function."
This is not the first test that showed a link between secondhand smoke and memory problems. The Huffington Post
published an article last September about a Harvard School of Public Health study which looked at the data generated by a 2007 national health survey. It analyzed 55,000 children ages 11 and younger from throughout the U.S. The study found that children who were exposed to secondhand smoke were twice as likely to develop neurobehavioral disorders such as learning disabilities, ADD or ADHD, and conduct or behavior disorders than children who lived in smoke-free homes.