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Human electroencephalography and the tobacco industry: a review of internal documents
  1. Vincent C Panzano1,2,
  2. Geoffrey Ferris Wayne2,
  3. Wallace B Pickworth3,
  4. Gregory N Connolly2
  1. 1Brandeis University, Waltham, Massachusetts, USA
  2. 2Harvard School of Public Health Boston, Massachusetts, USA
  3. 3Battelle Centers for Public Health Research and Evaluation, Baltimore, Maryland, USA
  1. Correspondence to Vincent C Panzano, Brandeis University, MS 008, 415 South Street, Waltham, MA 02454-9110, USA; vpanzano{at}


Objective To determine the extent and implications of internal human electroencephalography (EEG) research conducted by the tobacco industry.

Methods This study analysed internal documents that describe the results of human EEG studies conducted by tobacco manufacturers. Emphasis was placed on documents that pertain to the application of EEG to product evaluation efforts.

Results Internal EEG research was used to determine dose-response relations and effective threshold levels for nicotine, emphasising the importance of form and mechanism of nicotine delivery for initiating robust central nervous system (CNS) effects. Internal studies also highlight the importance of human behaviour during naturalistic smoking, revealing neurophysiological markers of compensation during smoking of reduced nicotine cigarettes. Finally, internal research demonstrates the effectiveness of EEG for the evaluation of non-nicotine phenomena including smoke-component discrimination by smokers, classification of sensory characteristics and measurement of hedonics and other subjective effects.

Conclusions Tobacco manufacturers successfully developed objective, EEG-based techniques to evaluate the influence of product characteristics on acceptance and use. Internal results suggest that complex interactions between pharmacological, sensory and behavioural factors mediate the brain changes that occur with smoking. These findings have implications for current proposals regarding the regulation of tobacco products and argue for the incorporation of objective measures of product effects when evaluating the health risks of new and existing tobacco products.

  • Electroencephalography
  • EEG
  • tobacco products
  • nicotine
  • neurobiology
  • smoker behaviour
  • addiction
  • harm reduction
  • nicotine products
  • nicotine reduction in cigarettes
  • tobacco products

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  • Funding Funding for this research was provided through the National Cancer Institute, grant RO1-CA87477-08. Other funders: National Cancer Institute, grant RO1-CA87477-08.

  • Competing interests None.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.