Medical News Today, Summery
Reduced Brain Growth In Alcoholics With Family Drinking History
The brains of alcohol-dependent individuals are affected not only by
their own heavy drinking, but also by genetic or environmental
factors associated with their parents' drinking, according to a new
study by researchers at the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and
Alcoholism (NIAAA), part of the National Institutes of Health (NIH).
Researchers found reduced brain growth among alcohol-dependent
individuals with a family history of alcoholism or heavy drinking
compared to those with no such family history. Their report has been
published online in
"This is interesting new information about how biological and
environmental factors might interact to affect children of
alcoholics," notes George Kunos M.D., Ph.D., Scientific Director,
Division of Intramural Clinical and Biological Research, NIAAA.
Many studies have shown that alcohol-dependent men and women have
smaller brain volumes than non-alcohol-dependent individuals. It is
widely believed that this is due to the toxic effects of ethanol,
which causes the alcoholic's brain to shrink with aging to a greater
extent than the non-alcoholic's.
"Our study is the first to demonstrate that brain size among
alcohol-dependent individuals with a family history of alcoholism is
reduced even before the onset of alcohol dependence," explains first
author Jodi Gilman, B.S., a NIAAA research fellow and Ph.D.
candidate at Brown University working with senior author Daniel
Hommer, M.D., of the NIAAA Laboratory of Clinical and Translational
Studies (LCTS) and co-author James Bjork, Ph.D., also of the NIAAA/LCTS.
Children of alcoholics are known to have a greater risk for alcohol
dependence than individuals without a parental history of alcohol
dependence. In addition to inheriting genes that predispose them to
alcoholism, children of alcoholics may experience adverse biological
and psychological effects from poor diets, unstable parental
relationships, and alcohol exposure before birth, all of which could
contribute to their increased risk for alcoholism.