Teens' Binge Drinking May Lead to Memory Impairments
> 4/7/2008 12:56:07 PM

Studies have illustrated the numerous consequences associated with teenaged drinking, from poor school performance to an increase in risky behaviors, and research presented at the British Psychological Society's annual conference has also indicated that drinking to excess may have a damaging effect on teens' growing brains. Using a group of college students between the ages of 17 and 19, the team of researchers from Northumbria University and Keele University found that binge drinking may have a significant impact on a teenager's cognitive functioning and interfere with their mental development.

The researchers focused specifically on prospective memory, an important element of everyday memory that refers to our ability to remember future events and actions we intend to take. Using college students between the ages of 17 and 19, they compared the outcomes of 26 binge drinkers (defined by the researchers as a woman who has more than six drinks at least twice a week or a man who has more than eight drinks at least twice a week) and 34 non-binge drinkers who completed both subjective and objective memory test. The subjects took these tests three or four days after their last drink to ensure that the alcohol had left their bodies and was not responsible for any observed deficits in cognitive abilities. First, the subjects were asked to report how often they forgot to do things they had intended to do, such as meeting with a friend or making a phone call. The second test involved a video of a shopping trip. The video cued them to complete a series of tasks they had previously memorized. They were told, for instance, to check their cell phones for a text message upon reaching a certain store in the video.

Subjects who engaged in binge drinking did not differ from those who did not binge drink in regards to their self-reported memory lapses. The video task, however, illuminated large differences between the two groups, with the binge-drinkers faring significantly worse. They forgot up to a third as many tasks as the subjects who did not binge drink. The results hint at the fact that alcohol may not only damage a teen's everyday memories but also their cognitive development, as head author Dr. Thomas Heffernan explained in a press release:

"Evidence has shown that the structural and functional development of the brain continues in the teenage years. If our findings are confirmed, it is feasible that binge drinking in the teenage years may impede important development of the brain that may underpin memory."

Alcohol can have a large negative impact on students' academic and behavioral outcomes, but, as this study indicates, binge drinking especially can be detrimental to students. Further research should investigate these associations using larger samples and focus on developing strategies for identifying and helping those at risk for impaired cognitive functioning. As we learn more about how binge drinking affects the brain, we may be better able to treat those who have suffered damage and help them to adopt healthier behaviors.

No comments yet.

Post Your Comments

Post a comment
Email Address:
Verification Code:
Input the 8 characters you see above:


Drug Abuse
Sexual Addiction
Eating Disorders
Alzheimer's Disease

About TOL | Contact Us | Defining Behavioral Fitness | For Healthcare Professionals | Links | Privacy Policy