Alcohol slurs brains communication

Researchers at Vanderbilt University Institute of Imaging Science in the US found that communication between the frontal lobes — responsible for judgement and decision-making — and the motor region called the cerebellum remained hobbled even a week after alcoholics stopped drinking.

Though the researchers are not yet sure what this finding may mean, they believe that such a situation could lead to serious neurological problems, LiveScience reported.
The researchers speculate that the hobbled relationship between these regions could be the result of injury to one or both of these parts of the brain, a disruption to the path that connects them, or even compensation due to injuries elsewhere in the brain.

“It could even be that a weakened relationship between these brain regions was present prior to when a person started drinking, which actually predisposes people to alcoholism in the first place,” study researcher Baxter Rogers said.

For the study, published in the journal Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research, Rogers and his colleagues asked 10 patients with chronic alcoholism to have their brains scanned in a functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) machine which measures blood flow to different regions of the brain, measuring which are active during any given task.

In this case, the alcoholic patients, all of whom had been alcohol-free for five to seven days and had passed the withdrawal phase, were simply told to tap their fingers. As simple as this motion seems, it requires activity in both the cerebellum and the frontal cortex, areas the researchers wanted to investigate.

The alcoholic patients were capable of producing the same number of finger taps per minute as nonalcoholics tested. But their brains used different methods to produce this movement, the researchers found.

There were fewer functional connections between the frontal lobe and the cerebellum in alcoholic brains, which means that the neurons in the two regions were not communicating very strongly.

The finding suggests that the alcoholics are compensating for an injured brain, Rogers said. “They may need to expend more effort or at least a different brain response to produce a normal outcome.”

If the task were more complex than finger-tapping, Rogers said, it’s likely that the alcoholic brains would be unable to compensate, and the movement would be impaired.

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