Beer contains alcohol, and drinking an excessive amount over a long period of time can damage your brain. Chronic alcoholism, or drinking an excessive amount of alcohol habitually, can affect not only your personal relationships and work, but your health as well, including your brain. Beer affects every age group and sex — no one is safe from alcohol-toxic effects.
Children and Adolescents
The majority of brain development occurs between the childhood and adolescent years, with the latter undergoing the most dramatic changes. Any interference of brain development during this growth period can sustain long-term cognitive effects. According to the American Medical Association, adolescents who drink alcohol may suffer brain damage. Poor memory results from concentration deficiency, a consequence of mood disorder and impairments in the brain that processes, stores and retrieves information. Researchers looked at the brain scans of alcohol-abused adolescents, ages 14 to 21, and found a 10 percent reduction in the size of the hippocampus, the area of the brain that processes information. The prefrontal cortex, or the front of the brain, undergoes transformations as well. The prefrontal cortex acts as the "CEO" of the brain by playing a major role in solving problems, processing emotions and managing behaviors. An injury to the brain's CEO can also change your personality.
Alcohol toxicity can still harm the adult brain, regardless of the fact that it has achieved most of its development by 25 years of age. According to Defeat Diabetes Foundation, Inc., Dr. Suzanne de la Monte and team compared six tissues of deceased chronic alcoholic adult males to six tissues of deceased nonalcoholic adult males, and found that chronic alcoholic males had a condition of insulin resistance. The chronic alcoholic tissues have less genes coded for molecules that served to recognize insulin -- a hormone involving in the operation of your bodily functions -- and insulin-like growth factor, which plays an important role in brain development and function. The study showed a correlation between insulin resistance and decreased neurotransmitters, neurons and connections in the cerebellum -- a fist-like structure located at the bottom of the brain -- and the frontal lobe. Neurotransmitters play a vital role in your memory, learning and motor since they are chemicals responsible for transmitting signals from one brain cell to the next.
Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders
Pregnant women drinking alcohol can transmit this chemical to her unborn child. Due to the unborn child's vulnerable body, including the brain, alcohol can cause devastating health conditions and more severely, death. Fetal alcohol spectrum disorders refers to disorders resulting from alcohol exposure while in the fetal stage. The disorders include brain impairments with symptoms of poor coordination, hyperactivity, attention difficulty, learning impairment, delayed speech and language development, poor reasoning and judgment skills and vision or hearing problems.
Brain Recovery from Alcohol Sobriety
Abstaining from alcohol after years of drinking can benefit not only your personal life, but your health as well. Dr. Andreas J. Bartsch and colleagues from the Department of Neuroradiology at the University of Wurzburg, Germany found that chronic alcoholics regained brain volume after staying sober for six to seven weeks. The researchers concluded, in the January 2007 issue of the journal "Brain," that the gaining of 2 percent of volume in the brain, chiefly choline -- an essential nutrient that plays a role in the production of neurotransmitters -- indicates "metabolic and neuropsychologcal recovery." Metabolic recovery refers to your body's ability to properly make energy from food, and neuropsychological recovery refers to the regaining of normal health in the brain and mind.