Regional Cerebral Metabolism in Female Alcoholics of Moderate Severity Does Not Differ From That of Controls

Alcohol Clin Exp Res. 1998 Nov;22(8):1850-4.


It is generally believed that women are more vulnerable to alcohol's toxic effects than men. Studies in male alcoholics have consistently shown reductions in brain glucose metabolism. However, such studies have not been done in female alcoholics. The purpose of this study was to evaluate if similar or worse brain metabolic abnormalities occurred in female alcoholics. For this purpose, we measured regional brain metabolism with positron emission tomography and [18F]fluorodeoxyglucose in 10 recently detoxified female alcoholics and compared it with that in 12 age-matched female controls. There were no differences between alcoholics and control females in regional brain glucose metabolism whether we used regions of interest analysis or statistical parameter maps methods. These results do not support a higher toxicity for the effects of alcohol in the female brain, as assessed with regional brain glucose metabolism, because metabolic values in female alcoholics did not differ from those of controls, whereas metabolic values in male alcoholics are generally lower than those in controls. However, this study is confounded by the fact that the severity of alcohol use in these female alcoholics was less than that of the male alcoholics previously investigated in positron emission tomography studies. Future studies in male subjects with alcoholism of moderate severity are required to address gender differences in sensitivity to alcohol effects in brain metabolism.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Alcoholism / diagnostic imaging*
  • Blood Glucose / metabolism*
  • Brain / diagnostic imaging*
  • Brain / drug effects
  • Brain Mapping
  • Female
  • Fluorodeoxyglucose F18 / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Reference Values
  • Sex Factors
  • Tomography, Emission-Computed*


  • Blood Glucose
  • Fluorodeoxyglucose F18