The risk of brain atrophy is reduced by light and moderate drinking. The alcohol can be in the form of wine, beer, or distilled spirits (liquor).
Brain diseases commonly cause brain shrinkage or atrophy. That is, a loss of cells. In brain atrophy there is a loss of neurons and the links between them.
Atrophy of the brain can be generalized. Therefore, the entire brain has shrunk. If the atrophy is local it affects a specific area of the brain. In this case, it affects what is controlled by that area of the brain.
Sometimes the shrinkage affects both sides of the brain. Thus, there might be impairment of conscious thought and voluntary processes. The disease determines the parts of the brain affected and the rate of shrinkage.
Many diseases can cause brain atrophy.
- Cerebral palsy
- Huntington’s disease
- Multiple sclerosis
- Brain injury
- Some infectious diseases.
- Alzheimer’s disease
- Pick’s disease
- Fronto-temporal dementia
- Krabbe disease
- Kearns-Sayre syndrome
Many diseases that cause brain atrophy are linked to dementia, seizures, and aphasias.
Dementia is a progressive reduction of memory and thought functions. Usually impaired is the ability to think abstractly, to learn, to plan, and to organize.
Seizures can appear as convulsions, disorientation, loss of consciousness, or repetitive movement.
Aphasias are problems in understanding or in speaking. Receptive aphasia causes impaired understanding. Expressive aphasia causes problems speaking.
Risk of Brain Atrophy
Light and moderate drinking reduces the risk of Alzheimer’s and other causes of dementia. On the other hand, heavy drinking increases the risk.
A study looked at drinking and the risk of brain atrophy. It used magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to identify brain atrophy. Doctors studied 589 residents of New York City. They averaged 80 years of age.
Light to moderate drinking greatly reduced the risk of brain atrophy compared to abstainers. This is consistent with other research findings.
Resources: Risk of Brain Atrophy
Does Drinking Alcohol Kill Brain Cells?
Drinking and Dementia, Alzheimer’s, & Memory Loss (Review)
Nat Inst on Neuro Dis & Stroke.
Gu, Y., et al. Alcohol intake and brain structure in a multiethnic elderly cohort. Clin Nut., 33, 662-7.