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Aerobic Exercise Reverses Brain Damage in Heavy Drinkers

The new study funded by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism and by the National Institute on Drug Abuse suggests that aerobic exercise may help prevent and reverse some of the changes brought about by heavy alcohol drinking on the brain.  University of Colorado Boulder researchers led by Hollis Karoly, a doctoral student, found that walking, running or bicycling are associated with less brain damage among heavy drinkers.

The study, which was published recently in the journal Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research, included 60 adults who were moderate to heavy drinkers. They had undergone a modified type of MRI which looked into several parts of the brain and its communication superhighways. They examined the “white matter” of the cerebrum, the largest part of the brain that is believed to be involved in perception, thoughts, judgment, imagination, and decision-making.

The participants also took a standard written test known as the Alcohol Use Disorders Identification Test (AUDIT), which detects harmful drinking behavior. The subjects reported their success or failure in attempting to control their drinking habits and the amount of exercise they were doing.

The results of the study indicated that those who engaged in regular aerobic exercise were more likely to have less damage in the brain’s “white matter”. They believe that their results show that exercise may help to repair brain damage due to alcoholism and that it might be a promising approach as a behavioral treatment and a treatment that has the potential to make the brain healthier.

The authors note that their study is exploratory and that they hope to inspire more research on the topic.


University of Colorado at Boulder. Aerobic exercise may protect cognitive abilities of heavy drinkers. ScienceDaily.


Posted in: Alcohol, Brain Health, Exercise, News Briefs

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