In uncomplicated alcoholic patients, a high incidence of cortical shrinkage and ventricular dilatation were reported using brain CT scans. In older alcoholics, prefrontal gray matter deficits were especially marked when compared with younger alcoholics. Reversibility of brain shrinkage is a common neuroimaging finding in patients with alcohol dependence.Regrowth of shrunken brain areas was particularly vigorous during the first month of abstinence, the scans showed. Besides the gray matter, areas "with significantly greater recovery in abstainers were the temporal lobes, thalamus, brainstem, cerebellum, corpus callosum, anterior cingulate, insula, and subcortical white matter." Follow-up studies showed that the regrowth was not simply due to rehydration.
The study appeared in the Dec. 2007 issue of the Japanese Journal of Alcohol Studies and Drug Dependence. The abstract is here.