Researchers from the U.S. National Institutes of Health (NIH) measured glucose metabolism on brain FDG-PET scans and blood oxygenation levels on fMRI scans of 68 individuals who consumed different amounts of alcohol.
Combining the FDG-PET and fMRI allowed the group to identify regions of the brain where glucose metabolism exceeded the underlying brain activity. These "high-cost" regions, characterized by low brain activity, were associated with increased alcohol consumption.
New imaging technique combines measures of brain activity (left) with glucose absorption (right). Image courtesy of Dr. Ehsan Shokri-Kojori.
"In heavy drinkers, we saw less regional power ... in the thalamus, the sensory gateway, and frontal cortex of the brain, which is important for decision-making," first author Dr. Ehsan Shokri-Kojori said in a statement. "These decreases in power were interpreted to reflect toxic effects of long-term exposure to alcohol on the brain cells."
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