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Psychopharmacology (Berl). 2005 Aug;180(4):583-94. Epub 2005 Sep 14.

Neurocircuitry in alcoholism: a substrate of disruption and repair.

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  • 1Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences and Neuroscience Program, Stanford University School of Medicine, Stanford, CA 94305-5723, USA. edie@stanford.edu

Abstract

The chronic, excessive consumption of alcohol results in significant modification of selective neural systems of the brain structure, physiology, and function. Quantitative MR structural imaging, diffusion tensor imaging (DTI), and functional MRI (fMRI), together with neuropsychological challenges, have enabled rigorous in vivo characterization of the results of alcoholism on the brain in the human condition. Neuroimaging has also enabled longitudinal study for the examination of alcoholism's dynamic course through periods of drinking and sobriety. Controlled studies have revealed compelling evidence for alcohol-related brain structural and functional modification--some longstanding, some transient, and some compensatory. Patterns of circuitry disruption identified through structural and functional MRI studies suggest a central role for degradation of frontocerebellar neuronal nodes and connecting circuitry affecting widespread brain regions and contributing to alcoholism's salient, enduring, and debilitating cognitive and motor deficits--executive dysfunction, visuospatial impairment, and ataxia.

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