Alcoholic brains work harder to accomplish even simple tasks as compared to their sober counterparts, a new study has found.
Chronic drinking is associated with abnormalities in the structure, metabolism and function of the brain, and one of the consequences of these deficits is impairment of motor functioning.
Researchers from Vanderbilt University, using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) during a finger-tapping exercise, found that the frontal lobe and cerebellum activities were less integrated in alcoholic individuals.
“The relationship was weaker in alcoholic people, even a week after they had stopped drinking,” Newswise quoted Baxter Rogers, the lead author as saying.
Rogers and his colleagues used fMRI to examine 10 uncomplicated chronic alcoholic patients after five to seven days of abstinence and once signs of withdrawal were no longer present, as well as 10 matched healthy controls.
Finger tapping recruits portions of both the cerebellum and frontal cortex, Rogers said, and previous research strongly suggested that both are affected in alcoholism, especially the cerebellum.
“We used fMRI because it measures the function of the entire brain painlessly and non-invasively.
“And it can identify specific brain regions that are involved in tasks, and that are affected in disease,” he said.
The researchers found that alcoholic patients could produce the same number of finger taps per minute as did the normal controls, but employed different parts of the brain to do it.
“This suggests that alcoholics needed to compensate for their brain injury.
“They may need to expend more effort, or at least a different brain response, to produce a normal outcome on simple tasks because they are unable to utilize the brain regions needed in an integrated fashion,” he added.
The study has been recently published in the journal Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research.