Another study suggests that binge drinking damages the brain. But this time, there’s reason to be hopeful too.
Tim McQueeny, a psychology doctoral candidate at the University of Cincinnati (UC), looked at 29 high-resolution brain scans from students aged 18 to 25. Those who reported regularly consuming more than four to five drinks at a time had more thinning of the pre-frontal cortex, which is the area where executive decisions are made. Executive decisions include paying attention and keeping control of emotions — things that become difficult when intoxicated.
“Alcohol might be neurotoxic to the neuron cells, or, since the brain is developing in one’s 20s, it could be interacting with developmental factors and possibly altering the ways in which the brain is still growing,” warns McQueeny.
However, his adviser and co-author Krista Lisdahl Medina also had some hopeful news. Their preliminary data also show that grey matter appears to be fine in those who were once binge drinkers, but who have since abstained. That, she says, warrants further study.
The prevalence of binge drinking on North American campuses is undeniable. In the most recent National College Health Assessment, which surveyed 30,000 students, nearly one in three reported that they consumed at least five standard drinks the last time they went to a party or socialized. Five per cent of them reported having more than 11 drinks the last time they socialized.