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Chapter 17 - Structural and microstructral imaging of the brain in alcohol use disorders

Elsevier Health Sciences
DOI: 10.1016/b978-0-444-62619-6.00017-3
  • Alcohol Dependence
  • Alcohol Use Disorders
  • Brain
  • Recovery
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Diffusion Tensor Imaging
  • Neuroimaging
  • Biology
  • Medicine


Abstract Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), by enabling rigorous in vivo study of the longitudinal, dynamic course of alcoholism through periods of drinking, sobriety, and relapse, has enabled characterization of the effects of chronic alcoholism on the brain in the human condition. Importantly, MRI has distinguished alcohol-related brain effects that are permanent versus those that are reversible with abstinence. In support of postmortem neuropathologic studies showing degeneration of white matter, MRI has shown a specific vulnerability of brain white matter to chronic alcohol exposure by demonstrating white-matter volume deficits, yet not leaving selective gray-matter structures unscathed. Diffusion tensor imaging (DTI), by permitting microstructural characterization of white matter, has extended MRI findings in alcoholics. This review focuses on MRI and DTI findings in common concomitants of alcoholism, including Wernicke's encephalopathy, Korsakoff's syndrome, hepatic encephalopathy, central pontine myelinolysis, alcoholic cerebellar degeneration, alcoholic dementia, and Marchiafava–Bignami disease as a framework for findings in so-called “uncomplicated alcoholism,” and also covers findings in abstinence and relapse.

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