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Alcohol brain damage continues even in drinkers
It turned out that even after six weeks of "tying" the destructive processes in the brain of the former alcoholics continue.
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The harmful effects of alcohol on the brain are well known and well understood, but many aspects are still poorly understood by science. In particular, there remains an important issue of the consequences of alcohol abuse for the brain, including for those who quit drinking.
Scientists from the Spanish Institute of Neurobiology Alicante and the German Central Institute of Mental Health Mannheim have studied what happens to the brain of alcoholics in the first weeks of abstinence from drinking. To do this, they used magnetic resonance imaging. The results of their work are published in the journal JAMA Psychiatry.
The authors examined the brains of 90 volunteers undergoing rehabilitation at a German hospital. After six weeks, scientists were still observing the changes that occur in the white matter.
According to one of the authors, Dr. Santiago Canals, the results of the study suggest that even in the absence of alcohol, the brain damage it causes will progress.
This study enrolled 90 patients with an average age of 46 who were hospitalized for alcohol use disorders. To compare the brain activity of these patients, the researchers recruited a control group of 36 men without alcohol problems, whose average age was 41 years.
“An important aspect of the work is that the group of patients participating in our study was hospitalized as part of a detoxification program, which ensures that they are under control and do not consume alcohol, so the withdrawal process can be clearly investigated,” says Dr. Canals …
Another distinguishing feature of this study was that it was conducted in parallel on alcohol addicted Sardinian rats (specially bred for alcohol studies), which allows tracking the transition to alcohol dependence in the brain, which cannot be tracked in humans.
The study showed that the damage observed during the period of abstinence mainly affects the right hemisphere and the frontal lobe of the brain, changes occur mainly in the white matter, which is responsible for the communication of various parts of the brain. This is contrary to the generally accepted idea that microstructural changes begin to return to normal levels as soon as alcohol is stopped.
Now scientists are trying to more accurately characterize inflammatory and degenerative processes and understand why the process of brain degradation continues in alcoholics at the beginning of the withdrawal phase.