Why alcoholism affects men’s and women’s brains differently?

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Effect of alcohol on the brain is known pretty commonly. It often acts as an instant stress buster or tranquilizer. There are have been some proofs, which indicates that some alcohols can even act as short-term energizers for the brain. On the other hand, there are certain negatives as well, like- dizziness, slower reflexes, etc. Excessive consumption can, however, be a reason of extreme damages to the brain. What is, even more, shocking is that effect of alcoholism is different for male and female brains.

Most masses know that excessive or long-term consumption of alcohol has severe consequences on the human body in many ways. One of those consequences remains with the brain that hampers its abilities of learning, memorizing, imagining, etc. There have been a number of studies that support the negative effects of alcohol on the human brain. A study by The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) tells that brain of female is more susceptible to damages dues to alcohol. Another study by Boston University School of Medicine claims the part of the brain affected by alcohol are different for the male from that of the female counterpart. Additionally, the ability of the brain to recover after the stopping the alcohol consumption is also different for the different genders.

Let us analyze the various reports in detail to understand the consequences of alcohol for the brain.

Study by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism

This study was published in October 2004 and tries to examine various effects on the human body that may associate with the brain, such as- nerve damages, blackout, mental confusion, etc. Considering the influences on the brain of different genders, its shrinkage was noticeable with both. For the cases imagined under the computerized tomography, it was noticed that even with most women drinking almost half amount of alcohol as compared to men had almost similar level of:

  • Brain shrinkage
  • Learning and memory problems

Such sufferings even with the lesser consumptions are not a certain conclusive but still reliable indicative of women brains being more susceptible to alcohol.

Study by Boston University School of Medicine

This study was carried out in August 2012 and studies precisely about the effect of long-term alcohol consumption on white matter of the brain. The study compares the brains of men and women, who have been drinking for at least five years and have now stopped drinking, with the brains of men and women, who never drank alcohol. There were 42 cases in abstinent and non-alcoholic group each. The MRI scans of all the cases were compared to identify the difference of changes that brains have experienced for different genders.

It was found out that there was a decrease in the corpus callosum among alcoholic men while the decrease was found with the cortical white matter regions among alcoholic women. So, the brain shrinkage was pretty eminent, but the affected portion remains different. Another interesting finding of the study was that once the consumption of alcohol is stopped, the female brain starts recovery earlier but the male brain recover later. This study was more conclusive than the one by NIAAA.

Why Alcoholism Effect On Brain Varies With Gender


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The brain is one of the most critical parts of human body, yet it remains unexplored by medical science as compared to any other body part. Eventually, the gender-based studies of the brain also lack somewhat. So, it is tough to juice out a definite reason for variation of alcoholic effect on the body. However, there is a strong possibility that it could be because of variation with the type of alcohol they drink. A Consumption Poll by Gallup indicates that alcohol preferences among different genders vary by big margins. The following images show the preferred choice of alcohol types among males and females in the USA.

Though there is not certain support to it, but there is a strong chance that different choice of alcohol is leading the alcoholism to affect men’s and women’s brain differently. Different psychological and brain muscle strength, hormones, consumption amount, frequency, etc. are other possible contributors that may develop the variation with brain damages. With the technologies, such as- brain mapping, still in evolution stage, the progress with these studies of the brain are expected to grow in the coming time. Hopefully, they will be able to provide some absolute reasons, which may even lead to finding guards against damages of alcohol. Till then avoiding alcohol is the best way to stay safe and healthy.