Changes in the brain that are normally seen in older patients with alcohol related dementia are now being identified in young adults that abuse alcohol. Neuropsychological tests have largely failed to reveal deficiencies in brain function in young adults who abuse alcohol. However, according to Josephine Wilson, Ph.D., and colleagues at Wittenberg University in Springfield, Ohio, brain images in young adults who abuse alcohol show diminished changes in the same areas as older patients with alcohol related dementia. The study consisted of 20 men, ten of which drank 25 or more alcoholic beverages a week, and ten, the control group, who did not drink. The men were all of the same age, did not use recreational drugs, and had no history of traumatic brain injury. The study administered FDG-PET imaging and a wide rage of neuropsychological tests.
Brain images observed several differences between the brains of the young adults who abused alcohol in the study and those that did not. Specifically, there were noticeable differences in the left cerebral hemisphere of the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex, in the right cerebral hemisphere of the primary visual cortex, and in the fusiform gyrus of the temporal lobe. The study, however, according to Dr. Wilson, found “… no statistically significant difference between drinkers and abstainers for any of the neuropsychological measures obtained.” The following is an excerpt of an article from Medpage Today that reviews the findings:
Changes in the brains of young alcohol abusers appear to occur even though neuropsychologoical tests fail to reveal deficiencies.
The same areas of the brain in these 21- to 25-year-old self-identified heavy drinkers that show diminished changes on imaging are the areas that are affected in older patients with pronounced neurological deficits, found Josephine Wilson, Ph.D., of Wittenberg University in Springfield, Ohio, and colleagues.
“This is an early warning signal that these changes are taking place at an early age,” said Dr. Wilson, who presented her findings at the of the American Psychological Association meeting.
Suzan Streichenwein, M.D., a psychiatrist in West Palm Beach, Fla., commented that “it really is scary to see these same changes in the brain scans of these young men that we see in patients with alcohol-related dementia.”