Pfefferbaum, A., Zahr, N. M., Mayer, D., Rohlfing, T., & Sullivan, E. V. (2015). Dynamic responses of selective brain white matter fiber tracts to binge alcohol and recovery in the rat. PLOS One, 10(4), e0124885. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0124885
To determine the dynamics of white matter vulnerability to excessive alcohol consumption, diffusion tensor imaging (DTI) was used in an animal model of alcohol exposure. Quantitative,in vivo fiber tracking results are presented from rats with DTI conducted at 3 time points: baseline; after 4 days of intragastric alcohol to blood alcohol levels of ~250mg/dL; and after one week of recovery. Binge alcohol followed by a week of sobriety resulted in rapidly reversible decreases in fractional anisotropy (FA), a measure of the coherence of fiber tracts, in callosal genu and fimbria-fornix but not splenium; and increases in mean diffusivity (MD), an index of freely diffusing water in tissue, selective to the fimbria-fornix. These effects were confirmed with tract-based spatial statistics (TBSS). The directionality of changes in DTI metrics reproduce those observed in human alcoholism. That a single exposure to binge alcohol can cause substantial transient changes detectable in DTI metrics demonstrates the potential for rapid neuroplasticity.