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Study of Brain Energy Patterns Provides New Insights into Alcohol Effects

Man seated at bar, one hand holding a glass with alcoholic beverage, other hand against his bowed head

Assessing the patterns of energy use and neuronal activity simultaneously in the human brain improves our understanding of how alcohol affects the brain, according to new research by scientists at NIH.

Photo: Petdcat/iStock

Assessing the patterns of energy use and neuronal activity simultaneously in the human brain improves our understanding of how alcohol affects the brain, according to new research by scientists at NIH. The new approach for characterizing brain energetic patterns could also be useful for studying other neuropsychiatric diseases. A report of the findings is now online in Nature Communications.

“The brain uses a lot of energy compared to other body organs and the association between brain activity and energy utilization is an important marker of brain health,” said Dr. George Koob, director of NIAAA, which funded the study. “This study introduces a new way of characterizing how brain activity is related to its consumption of glucose, which could be very useful in understanding how the brain uses energy in health and disease.”

The research was led by Dr. Ehsan Shokri-Kojori and Dr. Nora Volkow of the NIAAA Laboratory of Neuroimaging. Volkow is also director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse. In previous studies they and their colleagues have shown that alcohol significantly affects brain glucose metabolism, a measure of energy use, as well as regional brain activity, which is assessed through changes in blood oxygenation.

“The findings from this study highlight the relevance of energetics for ensuring normal brain function and reveal how it is disrupted by excessive alcohol consumption,” Volkow said.

The NIH Record

The NIH Record, founded in 1949, is the biweekly newsletter for employees of the National Institutes of Health.

Published 25 times each year, it comes out on payday Fridays.

Associate Editor: Carla Garnett
Carla.Garnett@nih.gov

Staff Writers:

Eric Bock
Eric.Bock@nih.gov

Dana Talesnik
Dana.Talesnik@nih.gov

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