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Am J Psychiatry. 2003 Jun;160(6):1180-3.

Effects of alcoholism and gender on brain metabolism.

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Veterans Affairs San Diego Health Care Syatem, University of California, San Diego, CA 92161, USA.



Proton magnetic resonance spectroscopy was used to evaluate gender influences on alcohol-associated changes in brain metabolism.


Concentrations of N-acetylaspartate, choline-containing compounds, myo-inositol, and creatine plus phosphocreatine in frontal lobe gray matter and white matter were estimated in eight women and 17 men who were recently detoxified from long-term alcoholism. Twelve women and 13 men with no history of alcoholism were used as a comparison group.


In male and female alcoholics, frontal lobe white matter concentrations of N-acetylaspartate were significantly lower (-8.8%) than those seen in nonalcoholic comparison subjects. In the frontal lobe gray matter region, a significant alcoholism status-by-gender interaction and follow-up analyses revealed that female alcoholics had significantly lower N-acetylaspartate concentrations (-10.73%) relative to female comparison subjects, while male alcoholics and male comparison subjects had similar levels of this metabolite (<1% difference).


Lower concentrations of white matter N-acetylaspartate, which may indicate neuronal loss or dysfunction, is equally severe in men and women with comparable alcohol abuse histories. However, female alcoholics exhibited significantly less N-acetylaspartate in frontal gray matter relative to female nonalcoholic comparison subjects, which could mean that female alcoholics are more susceptible to gray matter injury than their male counterparts. However, this finding could also be explained by higher-than-expected levels of N-acetylaspartate in the healthy female comparison group.

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