Underage binge drinking can cause long-lasting brain damage that could affect their lives as adults, according to a new study.
University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill researchers said that human adolescence, which happens between ages 12 and 20, is a critical time for brain development. This is when the cortex reaches a peak and is coupled with major rearrangements of neurons. The latter may help people adapt to life’s challenges as they mature toward adulthood. And adolescence is also a time when the brain’s neural circuits are more sensitive to disruption. When given the same amount of alcohol, teens’ frontal cortexes are much more sensitive to damage than adult brains.
Protecting the cortex is important since it is the part of the brain that predicts consequences of people’s actions, controls impulses, refines reasoning and evaluates long- and short-term rewards.
Adolescents represent the majority of people who binge drink.
A full report on the study is published in the April issue of Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research.
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