By Christopher Fisher, PhD
It is considered a rite of passage among young people – acting out their independence through heavy, episodic drinking. But a new University of Cincinnati study, the first of its kind nationally, is showing how binge drinking among adolescents and young adults could be causing serious damage to a brain that’s still under development at this age. Researcher Tim McQueeny, a doctoral student in the UC Department of Psychology, is presenting the findings this week at the 34th annual meeting of the Research Society on Alcoholism in Atlanta.
High-resolution brain scans on a sample of 29 weekend binge drinkers, aged 18 to 25, found that binge-drinking – consuming four or more drinks in one incident for females and five or more drinks for males – was linked to cortical-thinning of the pre-frontal cortex, the section of the brain related to executive functioning such as paying attention, planning and making decisions, processing emotions and controlling impulses leading to irrational behavior.