Heavy drinking from adolescence to young adulthood is associated with an altered cerebellum


Excessive alcohol use results in cerebellar damage in adults, but there has been less research on how alcohol use during adolescence affects the cerebellum. In this study, we observed that heavy drinking from adolescence to young adulthood was associated with altered volumes of cerebellar lobules. The study included two groups consisting of 33 heavy-drinking and 25 light-drinking participants. The heavy-drinking participants were highly functional young adults without alcohol use disorder, but with a history of regular heavy alcohol consumption. The participants were 13-18 years old at baseline and were followed for ten years. At the age of 21-28 years, the participants underwent magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). From the MR images, the cerebellum was segmented into 12 lobules using the CERES pipeline. Heavy drinking did not influence the absolute cerebellar volume, but changes were observed in posterior cerebellar lobules associated with motor and cognitive functions. The absolute volume (p = 0.038) and gray matter volume (p = 0.034) of Crus II (hemispheres combined) were smaller in the heavy-drinking group. Furthermore, the relative volume of the right VIIIB lobule was larger in the HD group (p = 0.036). However, there were no differences in the absolute right VIIIB volumes (p = 0.198) between the groups. Our results suggest changes in the cerebellum in healthy young adults with a history of heavy drinking from adolescence. The exact implications and significance of these findings require further research.