Focal brain matter differences associated with lifetime alcohol intake and visual attention in male but not in female non-alcohol-dependent drinkers

Neuroimage. 2005 Jun;26(2):536-45. doi: 10.1016/j.neuroimage.2005.01.036.


The purpose of this study was to investigate whether current or lifetime alcohol intake is related to focal gray and white matter in healthy non-alcohol-dependent drinkers, and, if so, whether these densities are related to functional brain activity associated with visual attention. Voxel-based morphometric analyses of gray- and white-matter densities, and event-related potentials in response to a visual-attention task were determined in 47 male drinkers (current alcohol intake 20 drinks per week, lifetime alcohol intake 240 kg) and 44 female drinkers (current alcohol intake 15 drinks per week, lifetime alcohol intake 170 kg). All participants had a negative personal and family history of alcohol dependence to reduce possible confounding by genetic factors related to alcohol dependence. In males, mean lifetime alcohol intake was negatively associated with gray-matter density and positively associated with white-matter density in the right frontal gyrus (BA 6) and the right parietal region (BA 40). Right frontal (but not right parietal) gray and white matter in males correlated with the P3 amplitude of the event-related potentials elicited in a visual-attention task. In females, mean lifetime alcohol intake was not associated with gray- or white-matter density. Current alcohol intake was unrelated to gray or white matter in both males and females. In conclusion, lifetime alcohol intake is associated with focal gray-matter decreases and white-matter increases in the right frontal and right parietal brain regions in non-alcohol-dependent males, but not in females. These alcohol-related differences in focal brain matter in males are associated with differences in brain function related to visual attention. As the confounding effects of genetic factors were reduced, the present results may selectively relate to the effects of alcohol intake on focal brain matter.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Alcohol Drinking / pathology*
  • Alcohol Drinking / psychology*
  • Alcoholism / pathology*
  • Alcoholism / psychology*
  • Attention / physiology*
  • Brain / pathology*
  • Evoked Potentials, Visual / drug effects
  • Female
  • Functional Laterality / physiology
  • Humans
  • Image Interpretation, Computer-Assisted
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Neuropsychological Tests
  • Predictive Value of Tests
  • Sex Characteristics
  • Visual Perception / physiology*