Binge-drinking in adolescence disrupts memory
Binge-drinking occurs frequently among adolescents. Young people typically like to experiment and drinking excessively is one of these experimental activities. As a result, excessive drinking can negatively affect an adolescent’s health through nausea, headaches and shakiness.
Binge-drinking has been associated with various alcohol-use disorders later in life and now scientists reveal that excessive drinking interferes with the activity of brain cells needed for sustaining short-term memory.
Using a voluntary intermittent access to alcohol procedure in male mice, the researchers found adolescent mice consuming binge levels of alcohol struggled with a working memory task. The mice also showed signs of front loading in early adulthood — which is the excessive consumption of alcohol in the first five minutes of alcohol availability.
This study shows why human adolescents who binge drink show deficits in performance on tasks mediated by the prefrontal cortex and brings to light the underlying mechanisms in the development of alcohol disorders in adults.
The researchers found that alcohol consumption during adolescence changed the intrinsic excitability of the pyramidal neurons in the prefrontal cortex (PFC), which connect the PFC to other areas of the brain that are important for the regulation of behaviour. The researchers also noticed that many of these effects were sustained following abstinence and observed in mice that showed working memory deficits.
The PFC supports behaviour management and as the PFC continues to mature through the teenage years, heavy alcohol consumption can disrupt this brain area resulting in reduced PFC activity, cognitive deficits and alcohol abuse at a later age. This study shows why human adolescents who binge drink show deficits in performance on tasks mediated by the prefrontal cortex and brings to light the underlying mechanisms in the development of alcohol disorders in adults.
The researchers believe that the findings of this study may ultimately lead to improved treatment in mitigating the negative effect of alcohol on the brain.
Source: The Journal of Neuroscience