Brain Repairs Itself after Chronic Alcohol Abuse

Overcoming chronic alcohol abuse enables brains to repair themselves, according to new research from the Bowles Center for Alcohol Studies at the University of North Carolina , Chapel Hill. 1

The researchers fed rats a diet including enough alcohol to simulate alcoholic binges, that is, keeping them intoxicated for a period of four days. During their “binges,” the rats’ ability to create new brain cells was reduced.

However, after the researchers sobered up the animals, they had a spurt of new brain cell development in just seven days. "After [alcohol] abstinence for one week, we saw a huge burst in the number of new cells being born," said one of the researchers. Several weeks later, the rats had "a pronounced increase" in new nerve cell formation in the brain.

The study is the first to demonstrate that brain cell production can return after abstinence from alcohol abuse.

People who drink too much and are thinking about either reducing or eliminating their drinking should find these findings encouraging, although humans have not yet been tested for the positive brain effect.


  • 1. Nixon, K. and Crews, F. The Journal of Neuroscience, Oct. 27, 2004; vol 24: pp 9714-9722.


  • O’Connor, Anahad. The claim: Alcohol kills brain cells. New York Times, November 23, 2994. (reports that alcohol doesn’t kill brain cells)

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