How Alcohol Effects The Brain

The exact effect of alcohol on the brain is still somewhat of a mystery.

The use and abuse of alcohol has a variety of wide-ranging short and long-term effects on health. The effects range of the ensuing hangover, to increased risk of diseases such as heart attacks and cirrhosis of the liver. One of the most important points of interaction between alcohol and the body is with the effects alcohol as on the brain.

Alcohol Effects Memory & Cognitive Function

alcohol effects the brain in many waysAlcohol abuse is linked to brain damage in the form of both brain lesions and shrinkage of the brain. It also manifests in loss of memory and cognitive function. Alcohol is known to promote inflammation in the brain, and also to inhibit hippocampal function and neurological development, especially in adolescents and young adults.

Brain Damage

Alcohol is linked to brain damage, in the form of brain lesions and shrinkage of the brain. Studies have found that alcoholics have significantly lower volumes of gray and white matter than non-alcoholics. This is believed to not only be due to the toxic effects of alcohol on brain chemistry, but also to factors such as withdrawal, nutrition deficiency, and electrolyte disturbances.

Neuroinflammation & Hippocampal Inhibition

Alcohol can trigger the activation of astroglial cells, which in turn produce an inflammatory response in the brain. Excessive intake of alcohol can also cause inhibition of hippocampal processes, such as decreases in neural stem cell proliferation and the expression of dopamine receptors.

Effects on Sleep

While alcohol consumption may make you fall asleep faster and increase the amount of “slow wave” or deep sleep that you experience, it also reduces the amount of REM or dreaming sleep, which can have a negative impact on concentration, motor skills, and memory.

Neurological Development

Alcohol affects the brain at every stage in life, but the most damaging of alcohol’s effects on the brain tend to happen with adolescence. The hippocampus and front structures of the brain are not fully formed until around the age of 25, and significant drinking among children and young adults can lead to cognitive deficits that can last into adulthood, including loss of memory, learning impairments, and a lack of visuospatial skills.