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Chapter 15 - Motor systems and postural instability

Elsevier Health Sciences
DOI: 10.1016/b978-0-444-62619-6.00015-x
  • Posture
  • Balance
  • Sensorimotor Integration
  • Cerebellum
  • Motor Cortex
  • Corpus Callosum
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Alcohol
  • Medicine


Abstract Acute alcohol intoxication and chronic alcohol dependence alter the neurologic control of posture and motor function. Ethanol delays the conduction of electric signals from the central nervous system to the muscles controlling posture and impairs the integration of sensory inputs required for maintaining vertical stance. Consequently, alcohol intoxication delays the ability to detect postural changes and enact the appropriate response. Common signs of acute alcohol intoxication include spinocerebellar and vestibulocerebellar ataxia, oculomotor changes, and increased reliance on visuospatial clues. Chronic alcoholism results in postural tremors and excessive sway during quiet stance that can persist even after sobriety is achieved. Underlying neurologic changes due to chronic alcoholism have been found to be associated with these characteristic postural changes and include decreased volume of the anterior superior vermis of the cerebellum, decreased connectivity within the corpus callosum, and overall cortical atrophy. Severity of motor impairments and other symptoms from alcoholism relate to a variety of factors, including duration of alcoholism, age, sex, and other health determinants and comorbidities. Imaging studies highlight the potential for partial recovery from neurologic and motor deficits caused by alcoholism. Emerging evidence on the motor and neurologic changes caused by alcohol dependence may allow for improved treatment and prevention of the morbidities associated with alcoholism.

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