After only four years of problem drinking, significant disruption of the female serotonin system can be seen, say Swedish researchers. The serotonin system in the brain regulates such functions as impulse control and mood. For men, it takes 12 years of excessive drinking before similar changes are seen.
The University of Gothenburg findings are the first to examine alcohol's effects on three of the major neurotransmitter substances in the brain. The results will be published in the journal Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research.
"We have used what is known as neuroendocrine techniques to show that it is principally the serotonergic system in the brain that is seriously impaired by alcohol. This is the system that regulates impulse control and mood, among other functions", says Kristina Berglund, spokesperson for the research group.
Berglund added that although both men and women suffer adverse consequences, the effects arise much more rapidly in women. "The results show that the function of women's serotonin system has fallen by 50 percent after as little as four years with problematic alcohol consumption, while it takes 12 years before the function of men's systems is halved."
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Source: University of Gothenburg