Alcohol and adult neurogenesis: roles in neurodegeneration and recovery in chronic alcoholism

Hippocampus. 2006;16(3):287-95. doi: 10.1002/hipo.20162.


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.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Alcohol-Induced Disorders, Nervous System / pathology
  • Alcohol-Induced Disorders, Nervous System / physiopathology*
  • Alcoholism / pathology
  • Alcoholism / physiopathology*
  • Animals
  • Cell Proliferation / drug effects
  • Ethanol / adverse effects*
  • Hippocampus / drug effects*
  • Hippocampus / pathology
  • Hippocampus / physiopathology
  • Humans
  • Nerve Degeneration / chemically induced*
  • Nerve Degeneration / pathology
  • Nerve Degeneration / physiopathology
  • Nerve Regeneration / drug effects
  • Nerve Regeneration / physiology
  • Neuronal Plasticity / drug effects
  • Neuronal Plasticity / physiology
  • Recovery of Function
  • Stem Cells / drug effects
  • Stem Cells / physiology


  • Ethanol