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article imageEffect of heavy drinking on the teenage brain revealed

By Tim Sandle     Jan 27, 2017 in Health
Drinking in moderation ticks a number of health concerns since excessive drinking triggers a range of diseases. At what age should someone start drinking? Not as teenager, according to a new study.
The research indicates that teenagers should not drink alcohol since alcohol causes a high level of damage to the still-developing adolescent brain. This is worsened through excessive or binge drinking. The research highlights a societal concern since many teenagers are prone to binge drinking (defined as four drinks for a female or seven drinks for a male, in one session).
The research comes from Finland. Here a collaboration between the University of Eastern Finland and Kuopio University Hospital indicates that alcohol alters the brain structure in young people. The areas affected are cortical excitability (also implicated with various psychiatric disorders) and functional connectivity (neurons). The scientists analyzed the electrical activity in the cortex of the brains of volunteers who were aged between the 13-18 (at the start of the study, by the end of the review the subjects were aged between 23 to 28 years).
According to Laboratory Roots, the participants were placed into two groups. One group included volunteers identified heavy drinkers; the other group essentially consumed no. The brains of both groups were assessed using transcranial magnetic stimulation (where magnetic pulses are directed to the head in order to activate neurons) and electroencephalograms. The aim was to determine how the brain responds to electrical stimulation. The researchers also checked to see how different regions of the brain communicate via neural connections.
With those classed as heavy drinkers, the response in the brain cortex (the “excitability factor”) was stronger and there was more activity with the neurotransmitter gamma-aminobutyric acid (a signal for brain connectivity). Compared with the non-drinking group the balance of chemistry and electrical activity had altered and the data indicated that the brain was not functioning efficiently. Concerning the disruption was similar to that observed with Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease patients.
The effects on teenagers and young adults are not immediate, since it takes time for alcohol-related adverse effects to manifest in a person's life. The researchers think that the findings should be used to change social policy relating to teenagers and drinking.
The findings are published in the journal Addiction Biology, under the heading “Heavy alcohol use in adolescence is associated with altered cortical activity: a combined TMS–EEG study.”
More about Teenage drinking, Drinking, Drink, Alcohol, Binge drinking
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