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Alcohol And Brain Structure
MRI shows long term heavy drinking can cause atrophy of the brain tissue and can also reduce brain fibers. Various scanning techniques like MRI, CAT scan, Diffusion Tensor Imaging (DTI) and PET scan are used to assess the brains of alcoholics when they first stop heavy chronic drinking and after long periods of sobriety to monitor for possible relapse to drinking.
These scanning methods and other techniques are very effective in predicting how alcohol can affect the brain’s structure and function.
By using these various study methods it has been proved that how brain functioning, memory, attention are affected by long term use of alcohol and these changes can be reversed up to certain extent by abstaining from alcohol. Memory formation and retrieval are highly influenced by factors such as attention and motivation.
Electroencephalography (EEG), yet another one more high tech tool which can record the brain electrical signals. In this small electrodes are placed on the scalp to detect the brain electrical activity, which further magnified and graphed as brain waves. These brain waves show real–time activity as it happens in the brain.
Damage to the brain that results from heavy alcohol consumption can also be visualized by using PET imaging. This snapshot of the brain’s function enables scientists to analyze alcohol’s effects on various nerve cell communication systems as well as on brain cell metabolism and blood flow within the brain. Studies have shown deficits in alcoholics in various brain lobes like frontal lobe (which is responsible for numerous functions that are associated with learning and memory).Long term use of alcohol can also affect cerebellum, which controls movement and coordination.
PET scan is very useful scan tool in diagnosing the effects of alcohol on brain tissue. It also help for monitoring the effects of alcoholism treatment and abstinence on damaged portions of the brain. PET may also help in developing new medicines to correct the chemical deficits found in the brains of people with alcoholics.