More Than a Few Brain Cells

Mar 27, 2009

It has been the topic of debate for the past few years now--drinking age.  I would say that the majority of teens have tried drinking at one point in time, and binge drinking is becoming much more prevalent in American society.  Besides the obvious effects of liver damage, and being hung over in the morning, researchers have also proven that binge drinking may lead to memory loss, particularly in younger people.

Researchers at Duke University recently published a study claiming that binge drinking can have serious effects on our memories later in life.  They did a study on rats testing the effects of binge drinking on adults vs. younger rats.  In the study, the rats were given doses of alcohol comparable to the amount a typical teen would drink while binge drinking.  They would give them a lot of alcohol one day, and then allow them to rest for a day, repeating the cycle for twenty days.

"We are not concerned about college students who only drink one or two drinks every now and then. We are concerned about heavy drinkers." lead author Dr. Aaron M. White told Reuters Health. "The alcohol dose was very high because we don't know what is an appropriate dose, so we want to show an effect if one is present."

The results of the study had the expected results.  That binge drinking truly does affect the memory of adolescents.  The rats who had been binge drinking had a harder time making it through the mazes after allowing their systems to clear out for a few days, and it was clear that their memory had depleted more than the older rats, along with those who weren't fed alcohol at all. 

"The implications of this study are that teenagers who drink heavily and often may be susceptible to the neurobehavioural effects of alcohol than would adults with similar drinking experiences," Dr David McKinzie, assistant professor at the Indiana University School of Medicine told the BBC News. "Of special concern is the possibility that the effects of early chronic drinking may have long-lasting consequences."

Another study conducted by professors at the University of Northumbria showed the same thing.  That binge drinking in teens can have damaging effects on their futures. So they're really not joking when they say drinking kills a few brain cells.  It kills many brain cells.

Dr Heffernan said: "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."