Newswise — Scientists who use postmortem brain tissue to study alcohol’s effects on brain structure and function will find this research interesting. Phosphatidylethanol (PEth) is an alcohol metabolite and its concentration in whole blood samples is a biomarker of drinking habits. For this study, scientists examined PEth levels in postmortem brains of individuals known to have had alcohol use disorders (AUDs).

Researchers divided 30 postmortem brains into three groups: 10 with AUDs that had positive serum alcohol levels present at the time of autopsy; 10 with AUDs that did not show positive serum alcohol levels at the time of autopsy; and 10 normal brains. PEth levels were measured in the cerebellum and orbital frontal cortex (OFC) regions.

Results showed that PEth was present in the cerebellum and OFC of all brains in all three groups of subjects, including the controls. The AUD group with detectable serum alcohol levels at the time of autopsy had much higher levels of PEth in both brain areas than either the control group or the AUD group whose subjects did not have detectable serum ethanol at autopsy. Thus, the ability to measure PEth levels in postmortem human brains can be helpful in classifying drinking status in individuals with AUDs at the time of death.