Long-term alcohol abstinence reverses some brain structural changes

Long-term abstinence from alcohol reverses some of the structural changes in the brain associated with heavy consumption, according to a report in the November issue of Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research. Chronic alcohol abuse brings changes in the grey and white matter of the brain readily visible by magnetic resonance imaging, as well as possible metabolic consequences discernible through magnetic resonance spectroscopy (MRS), the authors explain.

Dr. Dieter J. Meyerhoff and colleagues from the Veterans Affairs Medical Center and the University of California at San Francisco compared quantitative MRI and MRS results from 12 recovering alcoholics and eight actively heavy drinking (AHD) subjects. Recovering alcoholics had significantly greater white matter volume in the frontal lobes than did the AHD subjects, the authors report, whereas white matter volumes in the other regions examined were lower. Among recovering alcoholics, frontal white matter volume percentages showed a positive correlation with duration of abstinence from alcohol.

In contrast, the report indicates, white matter lesions occupied lower volumes in recovering alcoholics than in AHD subjects in all areas except the frontal lobes. Cortical grey matter volume was higher in the orbital frontal pole and somatosensory cortex of recovering alcoholics, the researchers note, but lower in the anterior cingulate. As measured by MRS, the metabolites of N-acetyl-aspartate, creatine, and choline did not differ between the two groups.

Source: Author Dr. Dieter J Meyerhoff University of California Reported in Alcohol Clin Exp Res 25: 1673-1682. 2001

Back to top of page

Powered by WordPress