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Int J Neuropsychopharmacol. 2019 Sep 1;22(9):548-559. doi: 10.1093/ijnp/pyz036.

Association Between Reduced Brain Glucose Metabolism and Cortical Thickness in Alcoholics: Evidence of Neurotoxicity.

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National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, Bethesda, MD.
National Institute on Drug Abuse, Bethesda, MD.



Excessive alcohol consumption is associated with reduced cortical thickness (CT) and lower cerebral metabolic rate of glucose (CMRGlu), but the correlation between these 2 measures has not been investigated.


We tested the association between CT and cerebral CMRGlu in 19 participants with alcohol use disorder (AUD) and 20 healthy controls. Participants underwent 2-Deoxy-2-[18F]fluoroglucose positron emission tomography to map CMRGlu and magnetic resonance imaging to assess CT.


Although performance accuracy on a broad range of cognitive domains did not differ significantly between AUD and HC, AUD had widespread decreases in CT and CMRGlu. CMRGlu, normalized to cerebellum (rCMRGlu), showed significant correlation with CT across participants. Although there were large group differences in CMRGlu (>17%) and CT (>6%) in medial orbitofrontal and BA 47, the superior parietal cortex showed large reductions in CMRGlu (~17%) and minimal CT differences (~2.2%). Though total lifetime alcohol (TLA) was associated with CT and rCMRGlu, the causal mediation analysis revealed significant direct effects of TLA on rCMRGlu but not on CT, and there were no significant mediation effects of TLA, CT, and rCMRGlu.


The significant correlation between decrements in CT and CMRGlu across AUD participants is suggestive of alcohol-induced neurotoxicity, whereas the findings that the most metabolically affected regions in AUD had minimal atrophy and vice versa indicates that changes in CT and CMRGlu reflect distinct responses to alcohol across brain regions.


alcoholism; brain glucose metabolism; cognition; cortical thickness

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