Alcohol consumption and brain health

Award Number
Status / Stage
8 October 2019 -
8 October 2024
Duration (calculated)
05 years 00 months
Wellcome Trust
Funding Amount
Funder/Grant study page
Wellcome Trust
Contracted Centre
University of Oxford
Principal Investigator
Dr Anya Topiwala
PI Contact
WHO Catergories
Understanding Underlying Disease
Disease Type
Dementia (Unspecified)

CPEC Review Info
Reference ID326
ResearcherReside Team


Award Number216462/Z/19/Z
Status / StageActive
Start Date20191008
End Date20241008
Duration (calculated) 05 years 00 months
Funder/Grant study pageWellcome Trust
Contracted CentreUniversity of Oxford
Funding Amount£581,539.00


Exposure to alcohol is widespread but potentially modifiable. Whilst heavy drinking is recognized as detrimental to the brain, the impact of more moderate intake remains unclear. This project seeks to better understand the relationship between alcohol intake and brain health.Specific aims:Examine the causal relationship between alcohol intake and dementia.Investigate the causal association between drinking and brain imaging markers.Identify mediating pathways between alcohol and brain health.The proposed studies will triangulate large-scale electronic health records with neuroimaging and genetic data in UK Biobank (n=500,000) and Million Veterans Program in the US (n=760,000). The project will include complementary observational and pseudo-experimental (Mendelian randomization) approaches, and examine for consistency of findings across methods.Outcomes:This work will comprise the largest and most in depth study of alcohol’s association with brain health. It has extensive application for the study of other exposures relating to psychiatric phenotypes. The findings are likely to be of widespread interest and relevance to scientific and clinical fields, as well as policy-makers and the public.


Using huge databases that contain information on the drinking habits of millions of people in the UK and US, and the largest brain imaging and genetic samples worldwide, I will clarify how alcohol consumption affects the brain. I will examine whether drinking affects a person’s risk of developing dementia, if and where brain structure is affected, and the pathways where damage or protection occurs.