New evidence suggests that teenagers who binge drink may damage the “white matter” in their brains. This area of the brain contains nerve fibers and is involved in transmitting messages between brain cells. If it is damaged, it may affect thinking and memory.
White matter has been shown to be damaged in adult
alcoholics, but alcohol’s effects in teenagers are less clear. It has been
suggested that adolescents may be more susceptible to neurotoxins, such as
alcohol, because their brains are still developing.
In the study, published in the online edition of Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research, the researchers performed brain scans in 28 adolescents (age 16-19), half of whom had histories of binge drinking. The MRI scans showed that the white matter was more damaged in binge drinkers compared to their peers who did not drink.
However, these results are preliminary, and the study is limited by its cross-sectional design and small sample size. Additional research is needed to determine how drinking affects the brain.
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