+ Binge Drinking Slows the Teenage Brain

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According to an article by Katrina Fiore at MedPage Today,  a study has shown that teens who binge drink may be compromising the integrity of the white matter in the brain.

A small cross-sectional study found that teens who binge drank had lower measures of fiber coherence in white matter in the brain than their peers who didn’t drink.  Susan F Tapert, PhD, of the University of California and colleagues reported the results online in Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research. 

According to Dr Tapert, because the brain is still developing during adolescence, “there has been concern that it may be more vulnerable to the effects of neurotoxins such as high doses of alcohol.”

Abnormalities in white matter, which is essential to the relay of information in the brain, could result in the inability to consider multiple sources of information when making decisions and impair emotional functioning.

White matter is composed of bundles of myelinated axons connecting grey areas.

It has been shown that white matter is compromised in adult alcoholics, but it’s less clear if the abnormalities appear only over the course of time. 

So the researchers performed diffusion tensor imaging on 28 adolescents ages 16 to 19 — half who binge drink, half who don’t — to obtain fractional anisotropy, a measure of directional coherence of white matter tracts.

What they found: binge drinkers had lower fractional anisotropy measurements than the controls, in 18 white matter areas throughout the brain.  Those areas included the corpus callosum, superior longitudinal fasciculus, and corona radiata (P0.01).

The reductions suggest, according to the researchers, the “possibility of compromised white matter integrity in major fiber tract pathways in frontal, cerebellar, temoral, and parietal regions.”

Lower fractional anisotropy in six of these areas was linked to significantly greater lifetime hangover symptoms (P0.025) and higher estimated peak blood alcohol concentrations (P0.05).

“These relationhips suggest that high-dose alcohol consumption may index adverse influences on white matter caliber,” the researchers said. 

They also noted that theirs is the first study to describe such changes in young drinkers, as well as in those who do not have alcohol abuse or dependence problems.

Even though the findings are limited by a cross-sectional design and a modest sample size, the researchers say they contribute to the growing literature that large doses of alcohol during youth may compromise white matter coherence.

sole source: article by Katrina Fiore in MedPage Today online/  Find the article at http://www.medpagetoday.com/PrimaryCare/DietNutrition/13862

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