Differential effects of alcohol-drinking patterns on the structure and function of the brain and cognitive performance in young adult drinkers: A pilot study
Introduction: This study was aimed to determine how different patterns of alcohol consumption drive changes to brain structure and function and their correlation with cognitive impairments in young adult alcohol drinkers. Methods: In this study, we enrolled five groups participants and defined as: long-term abstinence from alcohol (LA), binge drinking (BD), long-term low dosage alcohol consumption but exceeding the safety drinking dosage (LD), long-term alcohol consumption of damaging dosage (LDD), and long-term heavy drinking (HD). All participants underwent magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and functional MRI (fMRI) to acquire data on brain structure and function, including gray matter volume (GMV), fractional amplitude of low-frequency fluctuation (fALFF), regional homogeneity (ReHo), functional connectivity (FC), and brain network properties. The cognitive ability was evaluated with the California Verbal Learning Test (CVLT), intelligence quotient (IQ), and short delay free recall (SDFR). Results: Compared to LA, GMV significantly decreased in the brain regions in VN, SMN, and VAN in the alcohol-drinking groups (BD, LD, LDD, and HD). ReHo was significantly enhanced in the brain regions in VN, SMN, and VAN, while fALFF significantly increased in the brain regions in VN and SMN. The number of intra- and inter-modular connections within networks (VN, SMN, sensory control network [SCN], and VAN) and their connections to other modules were abnormally changed. These changes adversely affected cognition (e.g., IQ, CVLT, SDFR). Conclusion: Despite the small sample size, this study provides new evidence supporting the need for young people to abstain from alcohol to protect their brains. These findings present strong reasoning for updating anti-alcohol slogans and guidelines for young people in the future.