Table 1

Summary of associations between alcohol consumption, cognition and brain structure.

OutcomeChronic heavy intakeModerate intake
Cognitive outcomes
Dementia riskConsistently increased11 Conflicting results, with some studies reporting a protective effect26 28 31 which others have failed to replicate29 30
Cognitive declineConsistently increased8 9 Conflicting results, with some studies reporting a protective effect34 35 which others have failed to replicate32 36 37 46
Brain structure
Grey matterWidespread atrophy, especially of frontal lobes12 Two studies reported atrophy40 41 but others have not39 42
White matterWidespread atrophy, including of frontal lobes, cerebellum and corpus callosum13 20 Two studies have found negative associations44–46 and others have not43
Subcortical volumesHippocampi,51 amygdalae,16 mammillary bodies, hypothalamic and thalamic nuclei all potentially affected52 Two studies report conflicting associations with hippocampal size43 46
CerebellumAtrophy17 Insufficient evidence