Teen girls’ brains are hit harder by binge drinking than their male peers, according to new study from the University of California, San Diego, and Stanford University. Women may be particularly vulnerable to alcohol abuse at a young age because their brains develop more quickly, although other physiological differences may also account for the study’s disturbing results. According to the BBC,
“Female teenage heavy drinkers had less brain activation in several brain regions than female non-drinking teens when doing the same spatial task. [Researchers] suggested that this could cause problems when driving, playing sports involving complex moves, using a map or remembering how to get somewhere.” Other members of the study team added that binge drinking appeared to have negative impacts on concentration and “working memory.”
Boys were also negatively impacted, but not nearly to the same degree. Interestingly, these studies mirror findings about male and female adult alcoholics. Susan Tapert, a psychiatry professor at Stanford, explained, “While both men and women are adversely affected, women are often more vulnerable than men to deleterious effects on the brain.”
The study, which will be published in October, warned that 3 in 10 American teens in their senior year of high school reported binge drinking. Although women appear to be more adversely affected by these unhealthy drinking habits, the study points to a need for more work to prevent teens from abusing alcohol.
The need for further steps is crucial because, as Professor Edith Sullivan pointed out, “Long after a young person – middle school to college – enjoys recovery from a hangover, this study shows that risk to cognitive and brain functions endures.” Young people, many of whom binge drink only occasionally, may not realize what a serious effect these sporadic episodes have on their cognitive functions – but they should.
Photo from Clock via Wikimedia Commons.