Excessive alcohol consumption has long been shunned by health experts for its adverse effects on the human body. Our body can be harmed in more than one way due to binge drinking. Some of the existing studies show that binge drinking exposes an individual to an increased risk of hypertension, weight gain and type-2 diabetes. The worrying bit is that these effects may be more pronounced in teenagers and adolescents. Not only can binge drinking lead to long term health problems but it may also affect their mental well-being and growth. It is likely that teenage drinking exposes them to an increased risk of alcoholism in adulthood.An earlier study had established that heavy teenage drinking can may lead to dementia. A new study carried out by the researchers at the University of Massachusetts Amherst and Louisiana State University, claims that teen binge drinking can be closely linked to brain damage. The study was published in The Journal of Neuroscience and it explains that since the prefrontal cortex matures during adolescence, alcohol exposure might alter the course of brain development and its effects can last a lifetime."Adverse effects of this physical damage can persist long after adolescent drinking ends. We found that the effects of alcohol are enduring," Heather N Richardson from the University of Massachusetts Amherst said."The brains of adolescent rats appear to be sensitive to episodic alcohol exposure. These early experiences with alcohol can physically alter brain structure, which may ultimately lead to impairments in brain function in adulthood," she added.Researchers studied the affects myelin in the prefrontal cortex with the help of preclinical rodent models. Adolescent male rats were given bouts of sweetened alcohol or sweetened water daily for about two weeks. Towards the end of the term it was found that myelin was reduced in the prefrontal cortex of the binge drinking adolescent rats. The team carried out two more experiments where they examined myelin several months later after testing adult drinking behaviour and found that alcohol caused significant white matter loss and damage to myelin in the prefrontal cortex. In a final experiment, researchers found heavy adolescent alcohol drinking predicted poor performance on a working memory task in adulthood. The team concluded that the adolescent brain may have heightened sensitivity to alcohol.Inputs from PTI
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