Alteration of brain metabolites in young alcoholics without structural changes

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Using proton magnetic resonance spectroscopy and magnetic resonance imaging, we investigated concentrations of various brain metabolites, including glutamate, and measured brain volumes and neuropsychological performances in 13 recently abstinent young alcoholic men compared with 18 controls. No differences were found in volumetric variables between groups (intracranial volume, white matter, grey matter, anterior cingulate, insula, hippocampus, and amygdala). For the anterior cingulate, choline and creatine levels in the patient group were significantly lower than controls, and the glutamate to creatine ratio was significantly increased. These were correlated with altered short-term memory functions. Thus, neurochemical changes can occur even in the brains of young alcoholic men lacking brain atrophy.

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