A growing problem exists with teen drinking — especially teen binge drinking, which is extremely dangerous to the developing brain. The brain continues to develop until the ages of 20-25. Binge drinking can damage several different areas of the brain, including the spatial working memory (ability to understand what is going on around them). According to the experts, girls are even more vulnerable than boys to the negative side effects.
Most of us have known, or been around people who have been drunk. They have slurred speech, loss of memory, impaired judgment and delayed motor skills. Extended use can have long-term memory problems as well as other physical ailments.
Alcohol abuse does not result in the death of brain cells, as most people believe, but it can damage the ends of the neurons (dendrites) that result in their ability to make connections. Although the cell itself isn’t damaged, the communication center is altered. According to researchers such as Roberta J. Pentney, professor of anatomy and cell biology at the University at Buffalo, this damage is mostly reversible, but there could be lasting effects if the drinking continues.
“Even though adolescents might physically appear grown up, their brains are continuing to significantly develop and mature, particularly in frontal brain regions that are associated with higher-level thoughts, like planning and organization,” says Susan F. Tapert, acting chief of psychology at the VA San Diego Healthcare System in a university news release.
“Heavy alcohol use could interrupt normal brain cell growth during adolescence, particularly in these frontal brain regions, which could interfere with teens’ ability to perform in school and sports, and could have long-lasting effects, even months after the teen uses,” said Tapert in a study is published online July 15 ahead of print in the October issue of Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research. Tapert is also a professor of psychiatry at the University of California, San Diego.
So, while drinking in small occasional amounts will produce no damage, the abuse of alcohol can do damage to your brain, your liver and could kill you. In youths it can cause irreversible brain damage to different parts of the brain.
What parts of the brain are affected by alcohol abuse?
- Frontal lobes – which are used in making good decisions, planning, forming new ideas and the ability to control urges
- Cerebellum — which is involved in thinking, coordination and awareness
- Hippocampus — where memories are made — this results in trouble remembering, memory retention over long periods of time, ability to learn, and even blackouts
- Hypothalamus — involved in the body’s housekeeping chores like regulating blood pressure, body temperature and heart rate.
- Medulla — regulates heartbeat and body temperature.
Drinking results in a lower body temperature (hypothermia), which can be dangerous and even fatal. It can damage your brain forever, and that’s something you can’t replace. Long term health and development of your brain depends on the choices you make today.
About the author:
Ron White is a two-time U.S.A. Memory Champion and memory training expert. As a memory keynote speaker he travels the world to speak before large groups or small company seminars, demonstrating his memory skills and teaching others how to improve their memory, and how important a good memory is in all phases of your life. His CDs and memory products are also available online at BrainAthlete.com.
Discovery, Fit & Health – Alcohol Kills Brain Cells: http://health.howstuffworks.com/human-body/systems/nervous-system/10-brain-myths9.htm
WebMD — Binge Drinking May Affect Memory of Teens, By Jennifer Warner: http://teens.webmd.com/news/20110715/binge-drinking-may-affect-memory-of-teens
Learn About Alcoholism.com — Teenage Binge Drinking: http://www.learn-about-alcoholism.com/teenage-binge-drinking.html
Health Day — Binge Drinking May Impair Teen Brain Development: http://consumer.healthday.com/Article.asp?AID=654746