Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Neuroimaging Confirms The Greater Vulnerability Of Women's Brains To Alcohol

Date:
May 31, 2005
Source:
Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research
Summary:
Women appear to be more vulnerable to chronic drinking than men are. New research uses computed tomography to examine alcohol's effects on the brains of alcoholic men and women. Results show that women develop alcohol-related brain damage more readily than men.

Women appear to be more vulnerable to chronic drinking than men are. Yet few studies have looked at gender differences in alcohol's effects on the brain. A study in the May issue of Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research addresses this gap in research, using computed tomography (CT) to examine brain atrophy in the brains of alcoholic men and women. The findings support and build upon a prior hypothesis that women develop alcohol-related brain damage more readily than men.

"Studies using brain-imaging techniques are time-consuming and expensive," said Karl Mann, full professor in the department for addictive behavior and addiction medicine at the University of Heidelberg and first author of the study. "Women have generally not been considered in brain-imaging studies, or samples have not been large enough to differentiate between women and men. Conversely, male patients with alcohol dependence have historically been easier to recruit because the majority of alcoholic patients are male and the first evaluations of larger samples were carried out in soldiers. Furthermore, study results were thought to be generally applicable to both genders. Yet gender differences in the development, course and consequences of alcohol dependence have to be considered in early diagnosis as this probably will lead to different therapeutic strategies."

"Not only is the prevalence of alcoholism somewhat higher in men than women, thus increasing the chances of recruiting men over women in research programs," added Edith Sullivan, a professor in the department of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Stanford University School of Medicine, "but some speculate that women, with household and motherly responsibilities, have greater difficulty in finding time to participate in studies."

"Telescoping" is a term that refers to the later onset and possibly accelerated negative effects that chronic alcohol consumption may have on the brain's structural and functional systems in women.

"Epidemiological studies have demonstrated gender differences in alcohol-consumption behavior and the course of alcohol dependence," said Mann. "Women typically start to drink later in life, consume less per occasion and are, in general, less likely to develop alcohol dependence. One could reason that women are less affected by alcohol. But there is, in fact, evidence for a faster progression of the developmental events leading to dependence among female alcoholics and an earlier onset of adverse consequences of alcoholism. This suggests that women may be more vulnerable to chronic alcohol consumption."

For this study, researchers examined 158 subjects: 76 women (42 patients, 34 healthy "controls"), and 82 age-matched men (34 patients, 48 healthy "controls"). All of the alcoholics were recruited from a six-week inpatient treatment program, and met Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders - Fourth Edition and International Classification of Diseases 10 criteria for alcohol dependence. Control subjects were recruited by advertisement. CT scans were performed twice among the patients -- at the beginning and end of their six-week program -- and once among the controls.

Results confirm gender-specific differences in the onset of alcohol dependence.

"We were able to confirm the telescoping course of alcohol dependence in women," said Mann, "meaning faster progression of the developmental events leading to dependence among female alcoholics and an earlier onset of adverse consequences."

Results also show that brain atrophy seems to develop faster in women.

"We confirmed greater brain atrophy in alcoholic women and men compared to healthy controls," said Mann. "Furthermore, the women developed equal brain-volume reductions as the men after a significantly shorter period of alcohol dependence than the men. These results corroborate previous studies that have found other gender-related consequences of alcohol, such as cognitive deficits, alcoholic cardiomyopathy, myopathy of skeletal muscle, and alcoholic liver disease - all of which occur earlier in women than in men despite a significantly shorter exposure to alcohol."

"The higher depression index in alcoholic women than men was also of interest," added Sullivan, "and may actually serve as a useful trigger to family members that 'something is wrong' with the affected individual.

The good news is that abstinence seems to partially reverse the brain atrophy, for both genders.

"Because of the 'telescoping' effect," said Mann, "early diagnosis and early prevention are even more important for women with alcohol problems than for men. Despite the fact that men, in general, drink more alcohol and are more likely to develop alcohol dependence, it is those women who consume alcohol who probably develop alcohol dependence and adverse consequences more readily than men."

###

Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research (ACER) is the official journal of the Research Society on Alcoholism and the International Society for Biomedical Research on Alcoholism. Co-authors of the ACER paper, "Neuroimaging of gender differences in alcoholism: Are women more vulnerable?," were: Klaus Ackermann, Bernhard Croissant, Helmut Nakovics, and Alexander Diehl of the Central Institute of Mental Health at the University of Heidelberg; and Goetz Mundle of the Department of Psychiatry and Psychotherapy at the University of Tuebingen. The study was supported by the German Ministry of Education and Research.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research. "Neuroimaging Confirms The Greater Vulnerability Of Women's Brains To Alcohol." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 31 May 2005. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2005/05/050531111635.htm>.
Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research. (2005, May 31). Neuroimaging Confirms The Greater Vulnerability Of Women's Brains To Alcohol. ScienceDaily. Retrieved September 16, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2005/05/050531111635.htm
Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research. "Neuroimaging Confirms The Greater Vulnerability Of Women's Brains To Alcohol." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2005/05/050531111635.htm (accessed September 16, 2014).

Share This



More Mind & Brain News

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

FDA Eyes Skin Shocks Used at Mass. School

FDA Eyes Skin Shocks Used at Mass. School

AP (Sep. 15, 2014) The FDA is considering whether to ban devices used by the Judge Rotenberg Educational Center in Canton, Massachusetts, the only place in the country known to use electrical skin shocks as aversive conditioning for aggressive patients. (Sept. 15) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Shocker: Journalists Are Utterly Addicted To Coffee

Shocker: Journalists Are Utterly Addicted To Coffee

Newsy (Sep. 13, 2014) A U.K. survey found that journalists consumed the most amount of coffee, but that's only the tip of the coffee-related statistics iceberg. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
'Magic Mushrooms' Could Help Smokers Quit

'Magic Mushrooms' Could Help Smokers Quit

Newsy (Sep. 11, 2014) In a small study, researchers found that the majority of long-time smokers quit after taking psilocybin pills and undergoing therapy sessions. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
'Fat Shaming' Might Actually Cause Weight Gain

'Fat Shaming' Might Actually Cause Weight Gain

Newsy (Sep. 11, 2014) A study for University College London suggests obese people who are discriminated against gain more weight than those who are not. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

    Environment News

      Technology News



      Save/Print:
      Share:

      Free Subscriptions


      Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

      Get Social & Mobile


      Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

      Have Feedback?


      Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
      Mobile: iPhone Android Web
      Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
      Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
      Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins