Heavier drinking linked to structural brain differences among young men in large brain imaging study


Chronic misuse of alcohol can cause damage to the structure and function of the brain, and this in turn can impair decision-making and further exacerbate problem drinking. The cerebral cortex – a folded layer of cells that forms the outer layer of the brain ?is of particular interest, as this is where a majority of information processing takes place. Neuroimaging studies have revealed that greater alcohol intake is associated with a thinner cortex. However, when comparing the thickness of different regions of the cortex, findings have differed across studies ?possibly because of modest sample sizes, and because many studies did not account for potential differences between males and females. Researchers from the McMaster University’s Peter Boris Centre for Addictions Research in Ontario, Canada and the University of Georgia, USA have now published new findings on the association between the thickness of different regions of the cortex and alcohol use in a large group of young men and women.

The new analysis was based on data from over 700 young drinkers aged 22 to 37 years who had undergone magnetic resonance imaging (MRI scanning) as part of the Human Connectome Project. This project is systematically mapping the structure and function of the human brain, and provided a unique data resource for this research. 

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