beta-endorphin, adrenocorticotrophin, and alpha-melanocyte stimulating hormone were measured by radioimmunoassay in three areas of human brain at necropsy in seven subjects with Wernicke-Korsakoff syndrome and in 52 controls. Thiamin concentration in six brain areas was also measured. Mamillary body beta-endorphin concentrations were significantly increased in those with the syndrome compared with controls, and those controls with high alcohol intake showed increased mamillary body beta-endorphin compared with controls with low alcohol intake. Brain thiamin concentration was similar in both groups, with the exception of the brainstem, where it was reduced in subjects with Wernicke-Korsakoff syndrome. Thalamic beta-endorphin in controls was inversely correlated with thiamin in frontal white matter, frontal cortex, parietal white matter and parietal cortex, while beta-endorphin in the hypothalamus of patients was inversely correlated with thiamin in frontal cortex, parietal white matter, thalamus and brainstem. These results suggest that there is a disturbance of the endorphinergic system in Wernicke-Korsakoff syndrome which may be related to alcohol intake.
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