Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Damaged gait and balance can recover with long-term abstinence from alcohol

Date:
September 19, 2011
Source:
Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research
Summary:
Chronic alcoholism is often associated with a disturbed gait and balance, likely caused by alcohol damage to neural systems. While some studies have suggested that abstinence can lead to partial recovery of gait and balance functions, questions remain about duration of abstinence and sample size. This study of both short- and long-term abstinence has found that alcoholics' gait and balance can continue to recover with long-term abstinence from alcohol but that deficits can persist, especially eyes-closed standing balance.

Chronic alcoholism is often associated with a disturbed gait and balance, likely caused by alcohol damage to neural systems. While some studies have suggested that abstinence can lead to partial recovery of gait and balance functions, questions remain about duration of abstinence and sample size. This study of both short- and long-term abstinence has found that alcoholics' gait and balance can continue to recover with long-term abstinence from alcohol but that deficits can persist, especially eyes-closed standing balance.

Related Articles


Results will be published in the December 2011 issue of Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research and are currently available at Early View.

"Chronic alcohol abuse consistently damages the cerebellum, a complex structure located at the back of the brain below the cerebrum," explained Stan Smith, a neurobehavioral scientist with Neurobehavioral Research and corresponding author for the study. "The cerebellum has multiple functions, including control of balance and coordination. Alcohol also damages subcortical white matter, the myelinated fiber tracts that connect different parts of the cortex, and other central nervous systems [such as] motor effector and feedback systems. Long-term alcohol dependence also results in impaired dopamine transmission in the striatum, an important area for motor control."

This study examined 70 (49 men, 21 women) short-term (6 to 15 weeks) abstinent and 82 (48 men, 34 women) long-term (minimum of 18 months, a mean of 7.38 years) abstinent alcoholics, as well as 52 (32 women, 20 men) control individuals. The two alcoholic groups did not differ in terms of lifetime drinking, family drinking density, or years of education. Study authors also looked at gender and alcohol-use variables.

"Our study used a large sample, which enhances generalizability," said Smith. "Our long-term abstinent alcoholics also had very extended abstinence, more than seven years on average, compared to previous studies. Our results provide evidence that recovery of gait and balance, when visual support is available, may be attained with extended abstinence."

On the other hand, said Smith, the eyes-closed measures require greater balance and motor control. "Visual feedback makes balance easier by providing visual reference points for motor adjustment. Yet even with extended abstinence, structures important for balance -- like the cerebellum -- may not fully recover, so impaired performance on the more difficult balance measures persists."

Some previous studies have suggested that women metabolize alcohol differently than men, added Smith, and that impairment of brain functions in women, including cognitive processes, occurs with less lifetime alcohol misuse than for men. "Our finding of more impaired function in women than in men with short-term abstinence is consistent with this," said Smith. "However, the good news is that women in our long-term abstinent group performed similarly to men, suggesting that they recover to a comparable level with extended abstinence."

The bottom line, said Smith, is that impaired brain functions in alcoholics appear to recover with an extended abstinence, even if there is relatively little recovery with short-term abstinence. "This means there is hope for significant recovery of balance function with extended abstinence," he said.


Story Source:

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


Journal Reference:

  1. Stan Smith, George Fein. Persistent but Less Severe Ataxia in Long-Term Versus Short-Term Abstinent Alcoholic Men and Women: A Cross-Sectional Analysis. Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research, 2011; DOI: 10.1111/j.1530-0277.2011.01567.x

Cite This Page:

Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research. "Damaged gait and balance can recover with long-term abstinence from alcohol." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 19 September 2011. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/09/110915163519.htm>.
Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research. (2011, September 19). Damaged gait and balance can recover with long-term abstinence from alcohol. ScienceDaily. Retrieved March 4, 2015 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/09/110915163519.htm
Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research. "Damaged gait and balance can recover with long-term abstinence from alcohol." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/09/110915163519.htm (accessed March 4, 2015).

Share This


More From ScienceDaily



More Mind & Brain News

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

This Nasal Treatment Could Help Ease Migraine Pain

This Nasal Treatment Could Help Ease Migraine Pain

Newsy (Mar. 2, 2015) Researchers gave lidocaine to 112 patients, and about 88 percent of the subjects said they needed less migraine-relief medicine the next day. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
How Facebook Use Can Lead To Depression

How Facebook Use Can Lead To Depression

Newsy (Mar. 1, 2015) Margaret Duffy of the University of Missouri talks about her study on the social network and the envy and depression that Facebook use can cause. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
The Best Foods to Battle Stress

The Best Foods to Battle Stress

Buzz60 (Feb. 26, 2015) If you&apos;re dealing with anxiety, there are a few foods that can help. Krystin Goodwin (@krystingoodwin) has the best foods to tame stress. Video provided by Buzz60
Powered by NewsLook.com
Sleeping Too Much Or Too Little Might Increase Stroke Risk

Sleeping Too Much Or Too Little Might Increase Stroke Risk

Newsy (Feb. 26, 2015) People who sleep more than eight hours per night are 45 percent more likely to have a stroke, according to a University of Cambridge study. 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:

Strange & Offbeat Stories


Health & Medicine

Mind & Brain

Living & Well

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