April 1996

Decreased Corpus Callosum Size Among Alcoholic Women

Author Affiliations

From the Laboratory of Clinical Studies, Division of Intramural Clinical and Biological Research, National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, Md.

Arch Neurol. 1996;53(4):359-363. doi:10.1001/archneur.1996.00550040099019

Background:  Although females appear to be more sensitive to the hepatic consequences of alcoholism, it is not clear if women are more sensitive to the effects of excessive alcohol consumption on the brain than men.

Subjects and Methods:  We compared the crosssectional area of the corpus callosum in a group of 14 hospitalized alcoholic women and 13 hospitalized alcoholic men with a group of nine nonalcoholic women and 10 non-alcoholic men. All subjects were between the ages of 30 and 50 years. The cross-sectional areas of the corpus callosum and the inner table of the skull were measured on midsagittal T1-weighted magnetic resonance images.

Results:  Females had smaller intracranial areas than males, but there was no difference in intracranial area between the alcoholics and nonalcoholics. The corpus callosum area was significantly smaller among the alcoholic women compared with either the control women or the alcoholic men. Alcoholic men did not differ from control men in the corpus callosum area. These results did not change when the corpus callosum area was adjusted for intracranial area by analysis of covariance. When the corpus callosum was divided into four segments of equal length, the reduction in area was not localized to any particular region.

Conclusion:  These results suggest an increased sensitivity to alcohol-induced brain damage among alcoholic women compared with alcoholic men.