May 18, 2011

Binge Drinkers = Poor Learning Ability

(Ivanhoe Newswire) -- Binge drinking by young adults is prevalent in the United States and increasing in Europe. The brain's hippocampus is particularly sensitive to alcohol's neurotoxicity, and these new findings show a clear link between binge drinking and a reduced ability to learn new verbal information.

María Parada, a postdoctoral researcher at the Universidade de Santiago de Compostela, Spain and first author of the study and her colleagues examined 122 Spanish university students between 18 and 20 years of age divided into two groups: those who engaged in binge drinking and those who did not. All were administered a neuropsychological assessment that included the Rey Auditory Verbal Learning Test and the Wechsler Memory Scale-3rd ed. (WMS-III) Logical Memory subtest to measure verbal declarative memory, as well as the WMS-III Family Pictures subtest to measure visual declarative memory.

"Our main finding was a clear association between binge drinking and a lower ability to learn new verbal information in healthy college students, even after controlling for other possible confounding variables such as intellectual levels, history of neurological or psychopathological disorders, other drug use, or family history of alcoholism," said Parada.

"Young adults with a binge drinking pattern of alcohol consumption who have poorer verbal declarative memory will need more neural resources to perform memory tasks and to learn new information, which probably would affect their academic performance," Rodríguez Álvarez was quoted as saying.

In addition, they found that women are not more vulnerable than men to the neurotoxic effects of binge drinking.

"One of the factors that appear to be behind this pattern of consumption is the low perception of risk," said Parada. "Whereas most attention has focused on negative consequences such as traffic accidents, violence or public disorder, society and students themselves are unaware of the damaging effects binge drinking may have on the brain. Policies and prevention programs in Europe aimed at controlling this pattern of consumption on campus are still rare."

SOURCE: Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research, May 16, 2011