Background: Adolescence is a particularly vulnerable stage of development in terms of the deleterious effects of alcohol. Both lower gray matter (GM) volume and greater GABAergic activity have been associated with chronic alcohol consumption during adolescence. However, the association between these measures has not been investigated. Methods: In this exploratory study, we compared 26 young adults with a 10year history of heavy alcohol consumption with 21 controls who used little or no alcohol. Simultaneous transcranial magnetic stimulation and electroencephalography were used to assess transcranial magnetic stimulation-evoked N45 potentials, reflecting a balance between GABAergic inhibition and N-methyl-D-aspartate (NMDA) receptor-mediated glutaminergic excitation in the brain. GM thickness was measured from magnetic resonance images and GM and N45 potentials were then correlated. Results: Cortical thickness was significantly lower in several brain regions in the heavy-drinking group than the light-drinking group. The N45 amplitude was significantly larger frontally in the heavy-drinking group. Among heavy drinkers, there were several statistically significant correlations between thinner GM and larger frontal N45 amplitudes that were not detectable in the light-drinking group. The strongest correlations were detected in the frontal and parietal lobes, especially in the left superior frontal gyrus and the left supramarginal gyrus, and in both hemispheres in the superior parietal lobes. Conclusions: These findings show that a thinner cortex and greater inhibitory neurotransmission are correlated in certain brain regions among young, long-term heavy alcohol users. Studies are needed to explore the possible causal mechanisms underlying these effects.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Medicine (miscellaneous)
- Psychiatry and Mental health
- gray matter