Damage to the frontal lobes of the brain is a likely result of

A. Consuming low doses of alcohol.

B. Consuming medium doses of alcohol.

C. Binge drinking alcohol.

D. Chronic use of alcohol.

The correct answer is DChronic use of alcohol.

Diagram showing the lobes of the brain
Diagram showing the lobes of the brain

The brain is very sensitive to the effects of drugs and alcohol. In fact, damage to the frontal lobe of the brain is a likely result of the chronic long-term use of alcohol.

Alcohol easily crosses the blood-brain barrier to rush into the brain where it affects nerve cells (neurons). Neurons work by various neurotransmitters and by the movement of ions into and out of the nerve cells.

Neurotransmitters are chemicals that transmit messages from one nerve cell to another. Alcohol affects the neurotransmitters and the various receptors that control the movement of ions into and out of the cells. This then impacts how messages are transmitted through the brain.

Several studies have shown damage to the frontal lobe of the brain from alcoholism. The frontal lobe has been shown to have less blood flow and use less glucose in people who have used alcohol over the long term.

In addition, researchers have shown that the extent that the brain shrinks with age is increased among heavy users of alcohol. A reduction of as much as 14.7% of the white matter in the frontal lobe has been detected in the brains of long-term drinkers of alcohol.

In addition, alcohol has a drastic impact on neurotransmitters such as serotonin. Alcohol also impacts and interferes with GABA and glutamate receptors which function in nerve impulse transmission. Alcohol has a large impact on the frontal lobe and brain in general as a result.

The brain

The brain consists of an area known as the cerebrum which comprises most of the brain tissue. The cerebellum is a region found at the back of the brain above the brain stem where the spinal cord joins the brain. The cerebrum has four lobes known as the frontal, temporal, parietal and occipital.

From front to back of the cerebrum is the frontal lobe, parietal and the occipital. The temporal lobe is on the side of the cerebrum.

It is important to realize that the brain has two cerebral hemispheres: a left and right. This means that each type of lobe is present on both sides of the brain in both hemispheres.

The frontal lobe

The frontal lobe of the brain is found at the front of the brain, and it is the largest lobe of the brain. There are really two frontal lobes, one in each hemisphere, right and left.

This is one of the lobes making up the cortex of the cerebrum. There are various folds known as gyri, and grooves known as sulci, that are present in the lobe.

The central sulcus is a groove that separates the frontal lobe of the brain from the parietal lobe. Just in front of this sulcus is a region known as the precentral gyrus. This is the region of the frontal lobe that is known as the primary motor cortex.

This motor cortex (motor area), functions in the voluntary movement of specific areas of the body. In other words, this is the part of the brain that allows you to consciously move parts of your body whether it is the movement of your little finger, hips, face or other areas that you have voluntary control of.

The frontal lobe is also important in the ability to pay attention and focus. It is also involved in what is known as the executive function which includes the ability to plan, make goals and follow through in an organized manner to achieve those goals.

The frontal lobe is also important in memory and language. In fact, speech is a function of the frontal cortex of the brain. The area responsible for speech is Broca’s area which is found just in front of the motor cortex region.

Alcohol and the frontal lobe

Chronic use of alcohol has been linked to damage to the frontal lobe of the brain. CT scans and MRIs have even shown that the brain matter of the frontal lobe shrinks.

Although the brain cortex does shrink with age, the effect of alcohol greatly increases the extent to which the brain cortex shrinks.

In fact, as much as 14.7% of the white matter in the frontal lobe shrinks as a result of long-term alcohol intake. The use of alcohol over the long term also causes a decrease in blood flow to the frontal lobe.

This also means a decrease in oxygen and glucose supply to the cells of the brain. The brain, in particular, is very susceptible to low oxygen and glucose levels.

Neurotransmitters and receptors

Alcohol also impacts neurotransmitters such as serotonin. Neurotransmitters are the chemicals that help transmit signals from one nerve cell to another.

Serotonin is an important neurotransmitter in the brain. The impact of serotonin on the brain is large and it has been linked to memory, learning, and mood.

The timing of nerve signals in the brain is crucial for the correct functioning of the brain. Any disruption to the system can cause problems with mood and everyday functioning.

Alcohol can cause too much serotonin to be released and it can drastically interfere with serotonin receptors on nerve cells.

Furthermore, alcohol also impacts GABA and glutamate receptors in the brain. These receptors are also needed for the transmission of nerve signals through nerve cells.

The GABA and glutamate receptors impact the movement of ions into the nerve cell and the effect of alcohol interferes with these ions. It is important to remember that it is the movement of the different ions that allows nerve impulses to fire and signals to be transmitted.

References

  1. C Chayer, M Freedman (2001). Frontal lobe functions. Current neurology and neuroscience reports.
  2. F Moselhy, G Georgiou, A Kahn (2001). Frontal lobe changes in alcoholism: a review of the literature.  Alcohol and alcoholism
  3. M Kubota, S Nakazaki, S Hirai, et al. (2001).  Alcohol consumption and frontal lobe shrinkage: study of 1432 non-alcoholic subjects. Journal of Neurology.
  4. BC Schweinsburg, MJ Taylor, et al. (2001). Chemical pathology in brain white matter of recently detoxified alcoholics: a 1H magnetic resonance spectroscopy investigation of alcohol-associated frontal lobe injury. Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research.
  5. DM Lovinger (1997). Serotonin’s role in alcohols effects on the brain. Alcohol health and research world.

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