Binge drinking leads to brain damage


Staff member

It's considered a rite of passage among young people -- acting out their independence through heavy, episodic drinking. But a new study says binge drinking among adolescents and young adults could cause serious damage to their developing brains.

Tim McQueeny, doctoral student in psychology at the University of Cincinnati, examined the brain's grey matter that performs the function of thinking, receiving and transmitting messages. Brain scans of a group of weekend binge drinkers, aged 18 to 25 years, found that binge-drinking, (four or more drinks at one time for females, five or more drinks for males), was linked to cortical-thinning of the pre-frontal cortex, according to a Cincinnati statement.

This section of the brain handles paying attention, planning and making decisions, processing emotions and controlling impulses leading to irrational behaviour. "We have seen evidence that binge drinking is associated with reduced integrity in the white matter, the brain's highways that communicate neuron messaging, but alcohol may affect the grey matter differently than the white matter," he says.

The pilot study examined whether the researchers could see a relationship between grey matter thickness and binge drinking among college-aged young adults. They found that greater number of drinks per binge is associated with cortical thinning. The findings affect a significant population. About 42 percent of young American adults between 18 and 25 are reported to have engaged in binge drinking.