The adoscent age from 18 to 25 is crucial as brain keeps on maturity path during this phase and indulging in
bringe drinking in this age would result changes in the hippocampus are that controls learning and memory,
In a study conducted by the Duke Medicine, it was found that alcohol consumption can retard the development of
the brain cells during its crucial stage affecting memory in particular and impacting other cognitive
functions among the teens and adolescents.
Lead author Mary-Louise Risher pointed out that though law recognises 18 and above as adults, their brain still
keep maturing after that and the process continues till they reach mid-20s and hence over exposure to alcohol
can be detrimental to their memory capabilities.
Based on a small electrical stimuli on the hippocampus region in the brain, the Duke team measured a cellular
mechanism called long-term potentiation (LTP) that strengthens brain synapses which help learn new things,
tasks and improve memory.
Learning reaches its peak due to high synaptic activity that sends strong signal transmissions between neurons and the LTP is highest in the young at the age of adolescence paving the way for their skill-acquisition that leads them in to adulthoods, explained researchers.
In case of binge drinking the researchers found that the process would diminish abnormally the LTP mechanism when they experimented on the adult rats in the lab. Though LTP remained hyperactive in these animals compared
to the unexposed rodents to alocohol, the effect was visible in terms of less memory retention.
Risher attributes the results to alcohol that disrupts the maturation process, which can affect cognitive functions gradually among the adolescents with long-range impact on their later lives.
The findings have been published in the journal Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research.
In another related study, it was found that binge drinking during adolescence may perturb brain development and have lasting effects on genes and the behaviour of an individual, according to Subhash Pandey, professor of psychiatry at the University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC).
“Intermittent alcohol exposure degrades the ability of the brain to form the connections it needs to during adolescence. The brain doesn’t develop as it should, and there are lasting behavioural changes associated with this,” said lead author Subhash Pandey, professor of psychiatry at the University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC).
In the study, published online in Neurobiology of Disease, Pandey wrote, “On-and-off exposure to alcohol during adolescence altered the activity of genes needed for normal brain maturation. The gene alterations increased anxiety-like behaviours and preference for alcohol in adulthood.”
The behavioural effects, he said, were due to “epigenetic” changes the chemical processes in the DNA structure .
When the researchers analysed tissue from a part of the brain called the amygdala, they found in the exposed rats that the DNA and histones appeared to be tightly wrapped.
“These epigenetic changes are linked to lowered expression of a gene that nerve cells need in order to form new synaptic connections,” Pandey concluded.