Teen Binge Drinking May Impact Adult Memory
Binge drinking can lead to memory loss – and the effects can last into adulthood, according to a new study published in the Journal of Neuroscience.
For the study, researchers from Columbia University observed how binge drinking impacts the brain of mice. Binge drinking is defined as a pattern of drinking that brings blood alcohol concentration (BAC) levels to 0.08 g/dL. This typically occurs after 4 drinks for women and 5 drinks for men– in about two hours, according to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA).
It’s not news that binge drinking can take a mental toll on humans, with short-term effects including slurred speech, lack of coordination, forgetfulness and slow cognitive reactions – but how does it impact the long-term functioning of the brain? The scientists set out to answer this question and more.
The findings: The mice that “binge drank” in adolescence still had distinct changes in their behaviors and brains once they became adults. Specifically, they found that the neurons in the working memory of the brain were faulty even in adulthood. The working memory functions like a “mental sticky note,” says Understood.org, and impairments can interfere with learning, problem solving and the ability to follow instructions.
“These findings may help explain why human adolescent binge drinkers show performance deficits on tasks mediated by the prefrontal cortex,” the researchers wrote.
More Risks of Binge Drinking
Past studies have linked heavy drinking among adolescents to a thinning or reduction of areas of the brain that impact:
- Verbal learning
- Decision making and reward processing
- Alcohol cue reactivity
- Socio-cognitive/socio-emotional processing
And these brain alterations may even increase the risk of developing an alcohol use disorder later in life. What’s more, binge drinking has been shown to increase the risk of the following:
- Car crashes
- Drunk-driving arrests
- Sexual assaults and unsafe sex
- Suicide attempts
Help for Alcohol Abuse
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