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Alcohol-induced brain injury continues after alcohol has stopped

  Alcohol-induced brain injury continues after alcohol has stopped. Microstructural changes in brain-white matter in human alcoholics (a) and alcohol-exposed rats (b) measured using the diffusion tensor imaging to provide an index of microstructural integrity. The observed changes further progress after two weeks of abstinence in both species as shown in panels c for humans and d for rats. The results challenge the current perception that changes in the brain begin to normalize immediately after discontinuing alcohol and warn that persistent brain deficits may occur much earlier than what is currently believed. Credit: Silvia de Santis
Although the deleterious effects of alcohol on the brain are widely known, the structural changes observed are very heterogeneous. In addition, diagnostic markers lack the characterization of brain damage induced by alcohol, especially at the beginning of abstinence, a critical period due to the high rate of decline it provides.
<p>  Now, a joint work of the Department of Neuroscience CSIC-UMH in Alicante and the Central Institute of Mental Health in Mannheim in Germany have used magnetic resonance imaging to determine how brain damage progresses during the first weeks of abstinence. </p>
<p>  The research, published today in <i> JAMA Psychiatry </i>shows that six weeks after interruption of drinking water, there are still changes in the white matter of the brain, as evidenced by the neuroimaging study conducted on 90 volunteers detained for rehabilitation treatment on a German hospital. </p>
<p>  The results of this work are surprising, explains Dr. Santiago Canals from the Department of Neuroscience CSIC-UMH. "So far no one could believe that in the absence of alcohol, the damage to the brain would develop." </p>
<p>  90 patients in an average age of 46 years of age admitted to alcohol disorders participated in this study. To compare these patients' brain activity, the researchers recruited a control group of 36 men without alcohol problems with an average age of 41 years. </p>
<p>  "An important aspect of the work is that the group of patients participating in our research are hospitalized in a rehab and their consumption of addictive drugs is controlled, ensuring that they do not drink alcohol. Therefore, the holding phase can be followed closely. ", Dr. Canals. </p>
<p> "Another differential characteristic of this study is that it has been performed in parallel in a model of Marshal Sardinian rats, with preference for alcohol, which makes it possible to monitor the transition from normal to alcohol dependence in the brain, a process that does not is possible to see in humans "explains Dr. Silvia De Santis, who led the study. </p>
<p>  The injuries observed during the withdrawal period mainly affect the right hemisphere and the frontal area of ​​the brain, versus the conventional idea that the microstructural changes begin to return to normal values ​​immediately after alcohol withdrawal. </p>
<p>  With alcohol consumption "there is a generalized change in the white matter, that is, in the set of fibers communicating different parts of the brain. The changes are more intense in the corpus callosum and fimbria. The corpus callosum is related to the communication between both hemispheres. Fimbria contains the nerve fibers that communicate with the hippocampus, a basic structure for the formation of memories, nucleus accumbens and prefrontal cortex, "Dr. Canals. The core accumbens are part of the brain's reward system and the prefrontal cortex is essential for decision making. </p>
<p>  The researchers from Alicante and Germany will now try to characterize the inflammatory and degenerative processes independently and more accurately in order to investigate the development of the early-stage phase in people with alcohol problems.
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More Information:
JAMA Psychiatry (2019). DOI: 10.1001 / jamapsychiatry.2019.0318

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Spanish National Research Council (CSIC)

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Alcohol-induced brain injury continues after alcohol has stopped (2019, April 3)
April 3, 2019
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