BACKGROUND We examined the functional and structural cerebral changes in chronic alcoholics, analysing their association with personality features and alcohol drinking habits.
METHOD Forty patients with alcohol dependency, including 15 with antisocial personality disorder (ASP) as defined in DSM-III-R and 10 age and sex matched healthy controls were studied after termination of withdrawal symptoms, using high resolution single photon emission tomography (SPECT), cranial computerised tomography (CT) and brainstem auditory evoked potentials (BAEP).
RESULTS We found significant reductions in regional cerebral blood flow (rCBF) measurements of alcoholic patients. Low flow in frontal regions encountered in 67.5% of the patients was associated with the duration of alcohol consumption, while no such relation existed with the amount of daily intake. Patients with ASP exhibited more marked frontal hypoperfusion. Significant brain atrophy detected by CT was present in 40% of the patients and did not correlate with frontal hypoperfusion.
CONCLUSIONS Patients with ASP are more sensitive to toxic effects of alcohol. Alternatively chronic alcoholism leads to frontal lobe dysfunction recognised as ASP in the clinical setting.