The concept of "structural plasticity" has emerged as a potential mechanism in neurodegenerative and psychiatric diseases such as drug abuse, depression, and dementia. Chronic alcoholism is a progressive neurodegenerative disease while the person continues to abuse alcohol, though clinical and imaging studies show that some recovery may occur with abstinence. The neural plasticity observed in chronic alcoholism coupled with conflicting reports on alcohol-induced hippocampal neuropathology make this disease ripe for reconsideration in terms of the phenomenon of adult neurogenesis. This review describes opposing neurogenic processes that occur with alcohol intoxication and abstinence following alcohol dependence and how these opposing events relate to neurodegeneration and recovery from chronic alcoholism.
(c) 2006 Wiley-Liss, Inc.