From the comparison it emerged that in former drinkers the modifications of the white matter, that is the set of fibers that relate the different brain areas, are also perpetuated after having stopped consuming alcoholic beverages.
A fact confirmed by the simultaneous comparison made between two groups of mice genetically inclined to consume high quantities of ethanol (only one of which exposed to the substance), thanks to which it was possible to observe the “transition” that occurs in the brain before and after developing addiction.
In Italy, alcohol caused 435,000 deaths in ten years
THE MOST AFFECTED AREAS
“Until now, no one imagined that the damage caused by alcohol would be able to progress even after quitting drinking,” says Santiago Canals, head of the cellular and systemic neurobiology unit at the University of Alicante and coordinator of the research. by the Italian physicist Silvia De Santis.
«We found the greatest vulnerability at the level of the corpus callosum and the fimbria. These are two brain structures responsible for the connection between the two hemispheres (corpus callosum, ed) and between the hippocampus, the nucleus accumbens and the prefrontal cortex (fimbria, ed) “.
- The areas are – respectively – involved in the formation of memories, in the reward system (this is where the mechanism of compulsive drinking is triggered) and in the maturation of decisions.
- In the coming months, the researchers will try to give the right profile to the inflammatory and degenerative processes that underlie what is observed in the brains of those who have just stopped drinking.
- In addition, they will work on possible gender differences in the cessation pathways, since all former drinkers involved in the study were men.
HOW IS BRAIN DAMAGE BORN?
The process of brain damage induced by the excessive consumption of alcoholic beverages is partially reversible, but the “reconstruction” does not take place immediately after having swallowed the last glass.
- To be toxic to the brain are ethanol and its metabolite acetaldehyde, which can cause permanent structural and functional damage to the brain.
- Second, excessive alcohol consumption is associated with thiamine deficiency, which leads to Wernicke-Korsakoff syndrome: an unusual form of dementia that occurs as a result of severe deficiency in certain micronutrients.
Third, excessive alcohol consumption is a risk factor for other conditions that can also damage the brain: such as epilepsy and hepatic encephalopathy in patients with (already) cirrhosis of the liver.
Finally, heavy alcohol intake is associated with vascular dementia, due to the associations of heavy alcoholism with vascular risk factors such as hypertension, stroke, atrial fibrillation and heart failure.