Social drinkers and brain damage
If you have more than 100 drinks a month it is likely that a brain scan will show clear damage. Your reading, balance and other function tests will most probably score low, say the researchers.
The study was carried out by scientists at Vanderbilt University in Tennessee and the University of California San Francisco. They said that socially functioning heavy drinkers frequently do not recognize their level of drinking constitutes a problem that warrants treatment.
The researchers said in their report ?The enrollment criterion for heavy drinkers was the consumption of more than an average of 100 alcoholic drinks per month for men over 3 years before the study and 80 drinks for women.?
A drink means either ? One serving of spirits (whisky, brandy, vodka, etc), a glass of wine, or a bottle/can of beer.
The researchers looked at 46 heavy drinkers and 52 light drinkers.
They used MRIs and looked at their physical brain structures. They also tested some brain chemicals (measured them) which are associated with a healthy brain.
The volunteers also had to do some cognitive tests, such as:
-- Verbal intelligence
-- Processing speed
-- Memory (working memory)
-- Spatial awareness and function
-- Executive function
The researchers commented ?Our heavy drinkers sample was significantly impaired on measures of working memory, processing speed, attention, executive function, and balance.?
As they measured brain chemicals they noticed similar levels of damage they would find among alcoholics in hospital or alcoholic treatment centres (USA Spelling: centers).
The researchers also said ?What our findings indicate is that brain damage is detectable in heavy drinkers who are not in treatment and function relatively well in the community.?
They said that often the heavy drinker does not see the brain impairment himself/herself.
They suggested that drinkers do so in moderation. They said that heavy drinking damages the brain slightly. It reduces cognitive function in ways that may not be readily noticeable.
The researchers definition of moderate drinking was two drinks per day for younger men and one per day for women and older men.
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