Can alcohol destroy our brain cells: truth or myth

(ORDO NEWS) — There will be no sensations: excessive alcohol consumption harms the body and often many other problems – even children know this.

However, not everything that is attributed to the “green serpent” is true. Alcohol kills brain cells – this is a popular and long-standing thesis of anti-alcohol propaganda on everyone’s lips.

Somewhere I even had to come across such a strong, downright literary image: “in the morning, a hangover person literally urinates with neurons.” Uh… no. Just not neurons.

In general, no one doubts the ability of alcohol to kill a living cell – it is no coincidence that alcohol is a disinfectant.

But still, we do not dip the brain into a bucket of vodka, and the concentration of alcohol that can be in the blood, provided that a person has drunk and is still alive, of course, will not be enough to kill cells.

Can alcohol destroy brain cells

The popular myth was refuted back in 1993 by two scientists ladies – Grete Badsberg Jensen and Bente Pakkenberg – from the neurophysiological laboratory of the University of Aarhus (Denmark).

For their research, they dissected the brains of 11 dead people who were alcoholics during their lifetime, and 11 other dead citizens who preferred sobriety in this world.

By counting the number of cells in similar regions of the brain neocortex in drunkards and teetotalers, the researchers found no significant difference in the number of neurons.

But those who consumed alcohol in the brain found a decrease in the density of white matter in the old cortex (archicortex) of the brain. The old cortex includes, as you know, the hippocampus, the brain structure responsible for memory.

Can alcohol destroy our brain cells truth or myth 2Alcohol does not affect brain cells, but breaks the connections between them. Because of this, memory problems

There are no neurons in the white matter itself, there are only their processes, as well as glial cells. The decrease in white matter density indicates that alcohol does not kill neurons, but harms their processes, and thus destroys the connections between neurons and different parts of the brain.

This means that brain cells do not die after alcohol, but only lose contact with each other. In particular, this may explain the memory problems experienced by people who drink.

However, according to Danish scientists, the destruction of connections between brain cells after alcohol is not irreversible. It is enough for a person to stop abusing alcohol, and the density of the white matter will be restored.

Can alcohol destroy our brain cells truth or myth 3Model showing white matter pathways in the brain
The effect of alcohol on brain cells comes down to changes in white matter

How alcohol affects the brain

Despite the fact that, even in large quantities, alcohol does not kill brain cells, it can cause diseases that still destroy one of our main organs.

We are talking, for example, about the Wernicke-Korsakoff syndrome – it develops in alcoholics due to a deficiency of vitamin B1.

First of all, the mitochondria of neurons suffer, and then the cells themselves die. In other words, although in general the myth of killing brain cells with alcohol is not true, there is some truth behind it.


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