After one month of sobriety, recovering alcoholics who smoked showed significantly less improvement than those who did not smoke in both brain function and neurochemical markers of brain cell health.
"This study suggests that for better brain recovery, it may be beneficial for alcoholics in early abstinence to stop smoking as well," concludes Dieter Meyerhoff, Dr.rer.nat., a radiology researcher at SFVAMC and the senior author of the study. Meyerhoff is also a professor of radiology at the University of California, San Francisco.
The study appears in the March 2006 issue of Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research.
At the outset of the study, the authors examined 25 recovering alcoholics 14 smokers and 11 nonsmokers using spectroscopic imaging, a magnetic resonance imaging technique. The subjects' brains were measured for two important metabolites: N-acetylaspartate (NAA), a marker of neuronal viability, and choline, a marker of cell membrane health.
After one month of abstinence from alcohol, the subjects' brains were re-examined, and the brains of the nonsmokers showed significant increases in NAA and choline.
"We did not see the same pattern or magnitude of recovery in chronic smoking alcoholics who continued to smoke during this early stage in recovery," reports lead author Timothy Durazzo, PhD, a research scientist at SFVAMC. "In fact, in the smoking alcoholic group, we saw a decrease in NAA and choline-containing metabolites in parietal and occipital white matter." The parietal lobe plays an important role in sensory processing and object manipulation. The occipital lobe controls visual processing.
The study participants' visual-spatial learning and memory, attention and concentration, and overall processi
Contact: Steve Tokar
University of California - San Francisco