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Keywords:

  • Alcoholism;
  • Prefrontal Cortex;
  • Executive Function;
  • Cognition;
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging

Background

Alcoholic subjects manifest important deficits in frontal executive function, yet maintain cognitive mental status within normal range.

Methods

This study searched for volumetric measurements of segmented brain structures obtained from magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) that would predict executive functions and cognitive mental status in alcoholic subjects. The frontal assessment battery (FAB) and the Mini-Mental State Examination (MMSE) were applied to alcoholic subjects who underwent MRI. Cortical and subcortical segmentation and corrections were performed using FreeSurfer. Multiple linear regressions analyses having volumetric measures of segmented brain structures as predictors for FAB or MMSE scores as dependent measures were conducted. Sixty alcoholic subjects, 52 males, mean age of 47.2 ± SD 10.4 years, with heavy use of alcohol (mean 284.4 ± SD 275.9 g of alcohol/d) over a long time (mean 32.4 ± SD 11.1 years), showed FAB 11.1 ± SD 3.2 and MMSE of 25.2 ± SD 4.1.

Results

Multiple regression analyses having left and right side of each segment as predictors showed that gray matter volumes of rostral middle frontal cortex and cerebellar cortex (p < 0.001), in which only the left side of these structures showed significant partial effects in the full model (p < 0.05), showed to predict FAB performance. They were even more predictive when considered together (p < 0.001), in which both left rostral middle frontal cortex (p < 0.05) and left cerebellar cortex (p < 0.01) predictors had significant partial effects in the full model. None of brain structures was predictive of MMSE performance.

Conclusions

We have concluded that volumetric measurements of left rostral middle frontal and cerebellar cortices seem to be able to predict the frontal executive performance but not the cognitive mental status in alcoholic subjects.