Does alcohol actually kill brain cells?
According to a recent article in Scientific American Mind, drinking alcohol does not kill brain cells although it can damage them. (4)
Specifically, it can damage the dendrites of neurons. Dendrites are specialized protrusions of neurons which bring information into the cell body. Thus, damaging the dendrites can cause problems in the relaying of information between brain cells. (4, 5)
This damage particularly occurs in the cerebellum, which is the part of the brain concerned with learning and motor coordination. (6)
According to Dr Petney, however, this damage is not permanent; yet it can cause changes in neuronal structure.
Dr Petney also stresses that losing entire brain cells isn’t necessary to disrupt brain function. In fact, brain cell damage will also have a disrupting effect. (7)
So, perhaps the question we should really be asking is not does alcohol kill brain cells, but what damage does drinking alcohol do to the brain?