Background: To measure the effect of alcohol abuse on white matter brain macrostructure in women with alcoholism and to determine whether observed abnormalities interact with age.
Methods: Quantitative measures of corpus callosum area, cortical white matter volume, and pons volume were derived from magnetic resonance imaging scans obtained from 34 women with DSM-III-R alcoholism (aged 28-64, mean 41 years) and 35 healthy women (aged 22-65, mean 42 years). Transverse relaxation time of the pons was also obtained.
Results: No significant group differences in any brain measures were observed. However, in alcoholics greater length of sobriety was associated with more cortical white matter, and higher lifetime levels of alcohol consumption were associated with smaller volumes and prolonged transverse relaxation time in the pons.
Conclusions: Despite a lack of overall deficits in white matter macrostructural size in alcoholic women, certain white matter structures showed alcohol exposure vulnerability whereas others showed evidence of recovery with abstinence.