Article

Neuroimaging of Gender Differences in Alcohol Dependence: Are Women More Vulnerable?

Department of Addictive Behavior and Addiction Medicine, Central Institute of Mental Health, University of Heidelberg, Mannheim, Germany.
Alcoholism Clinical and Experimental Research (Impact Factor: 3.31). 06/2005; 29(5):896-901. DOI: 10.1097/01.ALC.0000164376.69978.6B
Source: PubMed

ABSTRACT Alcoholic brain damage has been demonstrated in numerous studies using neuropathology and brain imaging techniques. However, gender differences were addressed only in a few studies. Recent research has shown that development, course, and consequences of alcohol dependence may differ between female and male patients. Our investigation was built upon earlier research where we hypothesized that women develop alcoholic brain damage more readily than men do. To further compare the impact of alcohol dependence between men and women, we examined brain atrophy in female and male alcoholics by means of computed tomography (CT).
The study group consisted of a total of 158 subjects (76 women: 42 patients, 34 healthy controls; 82 age-matched men: 34 patients, 48 healthy controls). All patients had a DSM-IV and ICD-10 diagnosis of alcohol dependence. CT with digital volumetry was performed twice in patients (at the beginning and end of the 6-week inpatient treatment program) and once in controls.
Patients of both genders had consumed alcohol very heavily. Although the average alcohol consumption in the year before the study was significantly lower in female alcoholics, this gender difference disappeared when controlled for weight. However, women had a significantly shorter duration of alcohol dependence. Despite this fact, both genders developed brain atrophy to a comparable extent. Brain atrophy was reversible in part after 6 weeks of treatment; it did not reach the level in the control groups.
Gender-specific differences in the onset of alcohol dependence were confirmed. This is in line with the telescoping effect, where a later onset and a more rapid development of dependence in women were described. Under the assumption of a gradual development of consequential organ damage, brain atrophy seems to develop faster in women. As shown in other organs (i.e., heart, muscle, liver), this may confirm a higher vulnerability to alcohol among women.

3 Followers
 · 
89 Views
  • Source
    Experimental Neurology 08/2008; 213(1):10-7. DOI:10.1016/j.expneurol.2008.05.016 · 4.62 Impact Factor
  • Source
    [Show abstract] [Hide abstract]
    ABSTRACT: We examined the influence of gender and smoking status on reactivity in two human laboratory stress paradigms. Participants were 46 (21 men, 25 women) healthy individuals who completed the Trier Social Stress Task (i.e., performed speech and math calculations in front of an audience) and a pharmacological stress provocation (i.e., administration of corticotrophin releasing hormone (CRH)) after an overnight hospital stay. Approximately half (53%) of the participants were smokers. Cortisol, adrenocorticotrophin hormone (ACTH), physiologic measures (heart rate, blood pressure), and subjective stress were assessed at baseline and at several time points post-task. Men demonstrated higher baseline ACTH and blood pressure as compared to women; however, ACTH and blood pressure responses were more pronounced in women. Women smokers evidenced a more blunted cortisol response as compared to non-smoking women, whereas smoking status did not affect the cortisol response in men. Finally, there was a more robust cardiovascular and subjective response to the Trier as compared to the CRH. Although preliminary, the findings suggest that women may be more sensitive than men to the impact of cigarette smoking on cortisol response. In addition, there is some evidence for a more robust neuroendocrine and physiologic response to acute laboratory stress in women as compared to men.
    Psychoneuroendocrinology 07/2008; 33(5):560-8. DOI:10.1016/j.psyneuen.2008.01.012 · 5.59 Impact Factor
  • Source
    [Show abstract] [Hide abstract]
    ABSTRACT: The current study tested whether and why children of alcoholics (COAs) showed telescoped (adolescent) drinking initiation-to-disorder trajectories as compared with non-COAs. Using longitudinal data from a community-based sample, the authors confirmed through survival analyses that COAs progressed more quickly from initial adolescent alcohol use to the onset of disorder than do matched controls. Similar risks for telescoping were evident in COAs whose parents were actively symptomatic versus those whose parents had been previously diagnosed. Stronger telescoping effects were observed for COAs whose parents showed comorbidity for either depression or antisocial personality disorder. Both greater externalizing symptoms and more frequent, heavier drinking patterns at initiation failed to explain COAs' risk for telescoping, although externalizing symptoms were a unique predictor of telescoping. This risk for telescoping was also evident for drug disorders. These findings characterize a risky course of drinking in COAs and raise important questions concerning the underlying mechanisms and consequences of telescoping in COAs.
    Journal of Abnormal Psychology 03/2008; 117(1):63-78. DOI:10.1037/0021-843X.117.1.63 · 4.86 Impact Factor