Clinical and Experimental Research by Boston University School of Medicine (BUSM) and Veterans Affairs (VA) Boston Healthcare System, suggests that with abstinence, women recover their white matter brain volume more quickly than men.
In previous research, alcoholism has been associated with white matter pathology.
White matter forms the connections between neurons, allowing communication between different areas of the brain.
While previous neuroimaging studies have shown an association between alcoholism and white matter reduction, this study furthered the understanding of this effect by examining gender differences.
Researchers examined brain images from 42 abstinent alcoholic men and women who drank heavily for more than five years and 42 nonalcoholic control men and women.
They found that a greater number of years of alcohol abuse was associated with smaller white matter volumes in the abstinent alcoholic men and women.
In the men, the decrease was observed in the corpus callosum while in women, this effect was observed in cortical white matter regions of the brain.
The researchers also examined if the average number of drinks consumed per day was associated with reduced white matter volume.
They found that the number of daily drinks did have a strong impact on alcoholic women, and the volume loss was one and a half to two percent for each additional daily drink.
Researchers found that, in men, the corpus callosum recovered at a rate of one percent per year for each additional year of abstinence.
"These findings preliminarily suggest that restoration and recovery of the brain's white matter among alcoholics occurs later in abstinence for men than for women," said Mosher Ruiz, in a statement.
The study is published in the journal 'Alcoholism'.