Cumulative Effects of Long Term Alcohol on Brain Function

Functional MRI (fMRI), a type of scan that measures brain activity, has enabled study of the impact of alcohol on brain function. This type of imaging allows brain activity to be assessed while participants are at rest, performing a simple task like tapping a finger, or doing a complex cognitive task like a memory task or decision-making. It works by detecting the change in blood flow that occurs when brain cells (or neurons) in different parts of the brain are activated. Blood flow provides the energy and oxygen needed for brain cells to activate, and it is this exchange of oxygen that is measured using fMRI and is reflected by brain blood flow. Complicated physics are involved in determining the profile of blood flow when a part of the brain is activated, and studies have shown that the time course of these changes – known as the hemodynamic response function (HRF) – is affected by acute alcohol consumption. However, the effects of heavy chronic (long-term) alcohol consumption on HRF

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To BOLDly Go (or No-go): Brain imaging predicts frequent binge drinking in adolescents

A study published in the journal Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research could inform efforts to prevent adolescents from escalating to harmful patterns of drinking. Binge drinking in adolescence has many short- and long-term heath consequences, including risk of future alcohol use disorder and potential for harm to the developing brain. The risks are greatest for those who binge frequently – at least once a week. A hallmark of binge drinking is a reduced capacity to control one’s alcohol intake, related to a neurological process of ‘inhibitory control’ involving several regions of the brain. In adolescents who have not yet started drinking, specific alterations in these brain responses have been linked to an increased risk of future alcohol and drug use; however, it was not known if there are changes that could predict escalation of alcohol use among those already drinking. Therefore, researchers from the University of California investigated whether abnormal brain patterns co

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