Study Finds Reduced Brain Growth in Alcoholics with Family Drinking History
The brains of alcohol-dependent individuals are affected not only by their own heavy drinking, but also by genetic or environmental factors associated with their parents' drinking.
Schmalfeldt: The brains of alcohol-dependent individuals are affected not only by their own heavy drinking, but also by genetic or environmental factors associated with their parents' drinking. That's the upshot of a new study by researchers at the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. Researchers found reduced brain growth among alcohol-dependent individuals with a family history of alcoholism or heavy drinking compared to those with no such family history. Dr. Daniel Hommer of the NIAAA Laboratory of Clinical and Translational Studies and senior author of the study, said these findings seem to be a result of nature and nurture, since children of alcoholics are known to have a greater risk for alcohol dependence than individuals without a parental history of alcohol dependence.
Hommer: What appears to be likely, based on other studies of gene/environment interactions is (when) people grow up in not such a great environment — the heritability, in other words, what we end up attributing to genes versus environment is probably much lower. So, even though the published studies say ninety percent of your brain size is related to heredity, that's probably not true if you grew up in a not-very-good environment. And we think children of alcoholics, in general, tend to grow up in a less-than-optimal environment.
Schmalfeldt: Researchers found that the intercranial volume of adult alcoholic children of alcoholic parents was about four percent smaller than the average intercranial volume of adult alcoholics without family histories of alcoholism or heavy drinking. From the National Institutes of Health, I'm Bill Schmalfeldt in Bethesda, Maryland.
About This Audio Report
Reporter: Bill Schmalfeldt
Sound Bite: Dr. Daniel Hommer
Topic: Alcohol Abuse