Disclaimer: The information, articles, and tips portrayed on this blog, while based on research, do not constitute medical advice. The opinions expressed are meant to educate and inform, but not to dictate lifestyle choices or personal beliefs. These articles are meant to provoke thought on issues surrounding college health and to inform the Hopkins community of healthy information and resources.


Weekend Sip Tip: We like Big Brains and we cannot lie...


Ever feel like your brain is shrinking?  Probably not, but it could be happening according to a study by Boston University.  If you drink alcohol, the study found that it can actually reduce the size of your brain!  The study was trying to see if moderate amounts of alcohol protected the brain from developing dementia, but found that even moderate alcohol consumption caused brain shrinkage and offered no protection against brain deterioration.

If you think you may drink this weekend, feed your brain first and try to keep it safe.  Try having a meal before you begin drinking or while you are drinking.  Alternate your drinks with water or other non-alcoholic drink.  Spend time talking to friends or venting about that awful exam from earlier this week.  You'll enjoy the night more and keep a bigger brain for next week's big paper.

UPDATE: Due to some feedback, we want to clarify the results of the study for those that did not click on the link.  The BU study found that brain shrinkage did occur in those who chose to drink, with smaller brain volume in heavier drinkers and larger brain volume in abstainers.  

While use of alcohol can effect the brain's functioning, the actual size or volume of one's brain has not been linked to more or less functioning in the brain.  The researchers continue to see if the volume of a person's brain has any implications for functioning.  


Anonymous said...

Okay, so did the blogger happen to read the part of the article that says:

"However, the study did not demonstrate that the smaller brain volume actually impaired memory or mental function, notes James Garbutt, M.D., professor of psychiatry at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

And the differences between brain volumes in drinkers and nondrinkers were quite small -- less than 1.5 percent between abstainers and heavy drinkers."

Furthermore, despite this very small difference in brain size, the article says nothing about whether people who "alternate [their] drinks with water or other non-alcoholic drink" or "[have] a meal before [they] begin drinking" experience less of a "shrinkage" effect.

Trying to link moderate alcohol consumption to some disastrous consequences in one's cognitive abilities amounts to moralizing and scare tactics; what's more, it's bad science (surprising coming from a school like JHU).

Finally, the fact that there is less than a 1.5 percent difference should indicate a few things. First, it is difficult to measure accurate "brain volumes" using MRI. Second, you have no idea whether alcohol CAUSES brain shrinkage or whether people who tend to drink alcohol have a genetic predisposition to do so and have different brain structures (e.g., those who become addicted to alcohol and those who are able to enjoy it responsibly). Simply comparing drinkers with abstainers does not establish a causal relation. Finally, given that the difference is so small, there is hardly even a CORRELATION between drinking and brain size, much less enough of a correlation to (falsely) assert that correlation implies causality.

Also, take a look at all of the famous alcoholics throughout history. How many of them died of brain shrinkage vs. liver failure? Again, the problem is trying to quantitatively link brain shrinkage with cognitive ability. It is almost impossible to do so (even in a uniform group of non-drinkers) simply because there is no quantitative cognitive baseline, the study would have to proceed for a prohibitively long time, and there are far too many variables that cannot be controlled for, such as genetic background, environmental effects, lifestyle and diet, etc.

There might be dangers linked to alcohol consumption, but cognitive deficit is not one of them.