Drinking during adolescence doesn’t just increase risks of adult alcoholism, but may also result in memory impairment, a new study has revealed. The findings of the study were published in the Journal of Neuroscience and revealed that not only does adolescent drinking raise the risk of adult alcoholism by 15 times, but it also impairs the working memory of the person who starts partaking during her/his teenage years. The study was conducted on mice, who were allowed to get intoxicated by drinking voluntarily. Earlier too, researchers have looked at the effects of binge drinking on mice, but only by getting them intoxicated forcefully through vapour inhalation or injection of alcohol into their systems.
For the study, mice in the same developmental stage that is equivalent to adolescence in human beings, were chosen and then allowed access to alcohol every other day. The results showed that the behaviour patterns in these mice were similar to those of humans who have been exposed to binge drinking habits during teenage years. As these mice became young adults, those that were used to drinking alcohol heavily, adopted the same drinking patterns as are seen in people. But the most striking changes were observed in a set of neurons that are equivalent to the human prefrontal cortex. These neurons, just like the prefrontal cortex in humans, were responsible for the working memory and attention in rats.
Working memory is very short term memory and it got affected in mice that had been exposed to excessive drinking in their adolescent stages. These affected mice had prefrontal cortex neurons that were less able to generate persistent activity, which appeared to have impaired their working memory, said the research study. Study lead author Michael Salling from the Columbia University correlated these effects on mice brains to the effects in adults, saying that the results of this study explained why adults who started binge-drinking during adolescence suffered memory problems.
Study co-author Neil Harrison, Professor at the Columbia University in New York said that teenage brains are at a developmental stage where they are susceptible to being switched onto alcohol and binge-drinking. He added by saying that by the means of this study, the researchers had set to examine if they could find these switches in the teenage binge-drinkers, so that they could be turned off.
(With IANS inputs)