Magnetic Resonance Spectroscopy of the Brain in Alcohol Abuse.
Magnetic resonance (MR) technology produces data on brain structure and activity without relying on radiation or invasive surgery. Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) creates images, and magnetic resonance spectroscopy (MRS) produces spectra based on the ability of atomic nuclei in tissues to absorb and release pulses of energy. MRS studies of alcohol in the brain reveal that only a portion of the alcohol in the brain can be detected by MR technology, suggesting that alcohol there exists in multiple pools. The pools not visible using MRS is hypothesized to be bound to cell membranes. Indirect evidence from MR studies of chronic alcohol abusers suggests that tolerance to alcohol's effects results in an increased rigidity of cell membranes that forces more alcohol to remain in the MR-visible pool (i.e., the pool not bound to membranes) compared with alcohol in the brains of nontolerant people.