Binge drinking teens prone to memory loss

Teens who binge drink face the risk of memory loss and brain damage.

9 April, 2008

Bing drinking by teens in UK

Teenagers who indulge in binge drinking are putting themselves at risk of loss of memory owing to the damage the alcohol does to their brain.

In a research conducted recently, psychologists found “alarming levels of everyday memory loss” among university students who indulged in regular heavy drinking sessions.

Binge drinking harms developing brains in teenagers, leading to absent-mindedness and forgetfulness days later. It is possible that the pre-frontal cortex or hippocampus regions of the brain are being impaired, the researchers were quoted as saying.

Dr Thomas Heffernan, from the University of Northumbria, New Castle, the United Kingdom, who led the research, was quoted by the website as saying, “There is evidence that excess alcohol and binge drinking in particular damages parts of the brain that underpin everyday memory.”

Researches conducted earlier have suggested that binge drinking has a damaging effect on memory for past events, but till now little was known about its effect on prospective memory – that is, the ability to remember something one intends to do in the future.

Scientists from the University of Northumbria and Keele University, the United Kingdom, studied the impact of binge drinking – 6 units for females and 8 units for males, on two or more occasions a week – on teenagers’ prospective memory.

In the study, 26 binge drinkers and 34 non-binge drinkers completed a range of tasks, including a self-report and video-based prospective memory task.

The self-report assessed how often they had forgotten everyday tasks they intended to do. The video required the person to remember particular tasks at different points along a video clip of a shopping trip along a busy street.

It was seen that binge drinkers recalled fewer items on the video-based prospective memory task than non-binge drinkers. “Though from their own reports they appeared to have good memories, they didn’t perform as well in the video test.

The binge drinkers recalled up to a third less of the items, a significant difference,” Dr Heffernan said.

However, no difference was observed between the two groups in terms of self-reported memory failures.

Dr Thomas Heffernan said of the study, which was presented at the annual conference of the British Psychological Society, “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.”




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