Alcohol-induced changes in cerebral blood flow and cerebral blood volume in social drinkers

Alcohol Alcohol. Mar-Apr 2013;48(2):160-5. doi: 10.1093/alcalc/ags121. Epub 2012 Nov 21.


Aims: Although it is known that alcohol has vasoactive properties, previous studies have not investigated the relationship between cerebral blood flow (CBF) and cerebral blood volume (CBV) after alcohol consumption. The aim of this study was to investigate effects of alcohol on CBF and CBV, both globally and regionally, in social drinkers.

Methods: The method of choice was dynamic susceptibility contrast magnetic resonance imaging (DSC-MRI). Eight males were scanned twice on two separate days; once after consumption of alcohol (blood-alcohol concentration (BAC) of 0.08%) and once sober.

Results: The results showed an average increase of CBF after alcohol consumption, both in grey matter (GM) and in white matter (WM), with a CBF(BAC of 0.08%)/CBF(baseline) ratio of 1.2. Regional increases in CBF were seen in areas close to where the large brain-feeding blood vessels enter the brain, in the thalamus region and in the frontal brain regions. The lowest CBF changes were seen in the occipital brain regions. There was also an increase in CBV after alcohol consumption, in particular across WM regions.

Conclusion: In conclusion, a BAC of 0.08% causes both an average increase in global and regional CBF. There was stronger correlation between alcohol-induced changes in CBF and CBV in WM than in GM, suggesting the vasculature in the WM to be relatively more affected than the GM. Simultaneous measurements of CBF and CBV after acute alcohol intoxication in social drinkers are important in basic human neuroscience research to elucidate and understand brain physiology in the presence of exogenous neuro-pharmaceutical manipulations.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Alcohol Drinking*
  • Alcoholic Beverages*
  • Blood Flow Velocity / drug effects
  • Blood Flow Velocity / physiology*
  • Blood Volume / drug effects
  • Blood Volume / physiology*
  • Brain / blood supply*
  • Brain / drug effects
  • Brain / physiology
  • Cerebrovascular Circulation / drug effects
  • Cerebrovascular Circulation / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging / methods
  • Male
  • Young Adult