Regular Research Article|Articles in Press

Neuroimaging-Derived Predicted Brain Age and Alcohol Use Among Community-Dwelling Older Adults

Published:February 20, 2023DOI:


      • What is the primary question addressed by this study?
         Is light to moderate alcohol use associated with biomarker of slower brain aging among older community dwelling adults?
      • What is the main finding of this study?
         Heavier drinkers, those drinking more than 2 drinks per day, showed older than expected predicted brain age; those drinking less did not show younger than expected predicted brain age relative to nondrinkers.
      • What is the meaning of the finding?
         Light and moderate alcohol use does not appear to be protective against age-related structural changes in the brain, but heavier alcohol use is associated with evidence of greater neurodegeneration with age.



      Observational studies have suggested that moderate alcohol use is associated with reduced risk of dementia. However, the nature of this association is not understood. We investigated whether light to moderate alcohol use may be associated with slower brain aging, among a cohort of older community-dwelling adults using a biomarker of brain age based on structural neuroimaging measures.


      Cross-sectional observational study.


      Well-characterized members of a longitudinal cohort study who underwent neuroimaging. We categorized the 163 participants (mean age 76.7 ± 7.7, 60% women) into current nondrinkers, light drinkers (1–7 drinks/week) moderate drinkers (>7–14 drinks/week), or heavier drinkers (>14 drinks/week).


      We calculated brain-predicted age using structural MRIs processed with the BrainAgeR program, and calculated the difference between brain-predicted age and chronological age (brain-predicted age difference, or brain-PAD). We used analysis of variance to determine if brain-PAD differed across alcohol groups, controlling for potential confounders.


      Brain-PAD differed across alcohol groups (F[3, 150] = 4.02; p = 0.009) with heavier drinkers showing older brain-PAD than light drinkers (by about 6 years). Brain-PAD did not differ across light, moderate, and nondrinkers. Similar results were obtained after adjusting for potentially mediating health-related measures, and after excluding individuals with a history of heavier drinking.


      Among this sample of healthy older adults, consumption of more than 14 drinks/week was associated with a biomarker of advanced brain aging. Light and moderate drinking was not associated with slower brain aging relative to non-drinking.

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