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Excessive Alcohol Use When You’re Young Could Have Lasting Impacts on Your Brain

Date:
January 30, 2013
Source:
Elsevier
Summary:
There is growing evidence for the lasting impact of alcohol on the brain. Excessive alcohol use accounts for 4% of the global burden of disease, and binge drinking particularly is becoming an increasing health issue. A new review highlights the significant changes in brain function and structure that can be caused by alcohol misuse in young people. Functional signs of brain damage from alcohol misuse in young people mainly include deficits in visual learning and memory as well as executive functions.

Functional signs of brain damage from alcohol misuse in young people mainly include deficits in visual learning and memory as well as executive functions.
Credit: Markus Bormann / Fotolia

There is growing evidence for the lasting impact of alcohol on the brain. Excessive alcohol use accounts for 4% of the global burden of disease, and binge drinking particularly is becoming an increasing health issue. A new review article published in Cortex highlights the significant changes in brain function and structure that can be caused by alcohol misuse in young people.

Functional signs of brain damage from alcohol misuse in young people mainly include deficits in visual learning and memory as well as executive functions. These functions are controlled by the hippocampus and frontal structures of the brain, which are not fully mature until around 25 years of age. Structural signs of alcohol misuse in young people include shrinking of the brain and significant changes to white matter tracts.

Age of first use may be considered to trigger alcohol misuse. According to the researchers however, changing the legal drinking age is not the answer. In Australia the legal drinking age is 18, three years earlier than in the US. Despite the difference in legal drinking age, the age of first use (and associated problems) is the same between the two countries.

Instead, the authors stressed the need for early intervention, by identifying markers and thresholds of risky drinking behaviour at an early stage, while individuals are in vulnerable stages of brain development.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Elsevier. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Daniel F. Hermens, Jim Lagopoulos, Juliette Tobias-Webb, Tamara De Regt, Glenys Dore, Lisa Juckes, Noeline Latt, Ian B. Hickie. Pathways to alcohol-induced brain impairment in young people: A review. Cortex, 2013; 49 (1): 3 DOI: 10.1016/j.cortex.2012.05.021

Cite This Page:

Elsevier. "Excessive Alcohol Use When You’re Young Could Have Lasting Impacts on Your Brain." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 30 January 2013. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/01/130130082732.htm>.
Elsevier. (2013, January 30). Excessive Alcohol Use When You’re Young Could Have Lasting Impacts on Your Brain. ScienceDaily. Retrieved August 20, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/01/130130082732.htm
Elsevier. "Excessive Alcohol Use When You’re Young Could Have Lasting Impacts on Your Brain." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/01/130130082732.htm (accessed August 20, 2014).

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