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Alcohol consumption and brain health

Alcohol consumption and brain health

Principal Investigator: Dr Anya Topiwala
Approved Research ID: 55929
Approval date: March 9th 2020

Lay summary

Alcohol consumption in endemic in our society, with almost 40% of the world's population drinking. Whilst we know that very heavy drinking is detrimental to the brain, and can lead to dementia, more moderate intakes have been claimed to be protective. However, there were limitations in the way this research was carried out and the results may be spurious. Given the societal burden of dementia, identification of any modifiable factor such as alcohol consumption, would have grave public health implications.

UK Biobank contains information on the drinking habits of hundreds of thousands of people in the UK, and is the largest brain imaging resource worldwide. This offers for the first time the opportunity to investigate if and how alcohol impacts brain structure and function.

The specific aims are:
1. Does alcohol cause dementia?
2. Does drinking damage brain structure?
3. What are the pathways to damage?

Better understanding of these issues will hopefully identify ways to intervene, with a potentially huge public health impact.
The project duration is 5 years.