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Neurocircuitry in alcoholism: a substrate of disruption and repair

Abstract

The chronic, excessive consumption of alcohol results in significant modification of selective neural systems of the brain structure, physiology, and function. Quantitative MR structural imaging, diffusion tensor imaging (DTI), and functional MRI (fMRI), together with neuropsychological challenges, have enabled rigorous in vivo characterization of the results of alcoholism on the brain in the human condition. Neuroimaging has also enabled longitudinal study for the examination of alcoholism’s dynamic course through periods of drinking and sobriety. Controlled studies have revealed compelling evidence for alcohol-related brain structural and functional modification—some longstanding, some transient, and some compensatory. Patterns of circuitry disruption identified through structural and functional MRI studies suggest a central role for degradation of frontocerebellar neuronal nodes and connecting circuitry affecting widespread brain regions and contributing to alcoholism’s salient, enduring, and debilitating cognitive and motor deficits—executive dysfunction, visuospatial impairment, and ataxia.

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Acknowledgements

This work was supported by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (AA10723, AA05965, AA12388, AA12999).

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Correspondence to Edith V. Sullivan.

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Sullivan, E.V., Pfefferbaum, A. Neurocircuitry in alcoholism: a substrate of disruption and repair. Psychopharmacology 180, 583–594 (2005). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00213-005-2267-6

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Keywords

  • Alcohol
  • Alcoholism
  • MRI
  • Diffussion tensor imaging
  • Frontal lobes
  • Cerebellum
  • White matter