Neurological Disorders

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Research shows that alcohol can have both beneficial and harmful effects upon health.  Duration, recency of use, time and quantity of use are all crucial for consideration, when trying to understand the effects of alcohol on an individual’s brain.

Alcoholism seldom occurs in isolation and biological factors appear to predispose one’s expression of alcohol related cognitive functions.  Research suggests that those who consume alcohol in moderation have lower rates of mortality while non-drinkers have higher rates of dementia.  Don’t be alarmist about patients who are drinking in moderation!

Alcoholics are at higher risk for stroke and hypertension while those who drink moderately run lower blood pressures than those who abuse or abstain.  Ethanol changes lipid profile in a beneficial way. Prolonged alcoholism is associated with frontal cortex and cortical dendritic harbor. There is shortening of the dendritic spines. Ethanol fed rats show dendritic simplification. The mammillary bodies and thalamus when one has Wernicke’s Korsakoff’s syndrome.

The initial insults involved in alcoholism are not typically irreversible.  The recently detoxified alcoholic, a few weeks post detoxification, tends to show deficits with learning new information, recall of information, cognitive abstraction and perceptual-motor abilities.  Increase in width of cortical sulci is seen on structural imaging and increase in ventricle size and thinning of the corpus collasom particulalry in the frontal area and cerebellum.

Compared to controls the recently detoxified alcoholics have microstructural changes in various white matter tracts.  Reduction in fractional anosatrophy are seen on structural imaging.

Certain metabolite changes such as a reduction in Naa are seen in recently detoxified alcoholics.  Naa correlates positively with performance on neurocognitive functioning.

Many helpful articles on neurocognitive functioning and alcohol use can be viewed for free on Igor Grant’s website.