Heavy alcohol consumption in adolescent age may result in long lasting changes in parts of the brain and affects their memory, study revealed. The study was published in the journal Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research.
"In the eyes of the law, once people reach the age of 18, they are considered adult but the brain continues to mature and refine all the way into the mid-20s," explained lead author Mary-Louise Risher, post-doctoral researcher at Duke University. He suggested young people to know about the fact that, when they drink heavily during this period of development, there could be changes occurring that have a lasting impact on memory and other cognitive functions.
To reach the conclusion, the researchers tested this condition in rodents. Periodically they exposed the young rodents to a level of alcohol during adolescence that, in humans, would result in impairment, but not sedation. Afterward, these animals received no further exposure to alcohol, and grew into adulthood, which in rats occurred within 24 to 29 days.
The researchers measured a cellular mechanism by using a small electric stimuli applied to the hippocampus, a brain region where memory and learning are controlled. "Something happens during adolescent alcohol exposure that changes the way the hippocampus and other regions of the brain function and how the cells actually look," added senior study author Scott Swartzwelder, professor at Duke University.
In addition to this, the researchers plan to investigate additional cellular changes and the longer-term effects of exposure to alcohol on the brain.