Alcohol consumption

If your Friday night starts with a round of Tequila and Sunday evening ends in wondering what the heck happened on Saturday, there is a chance that your favorite cocktail is harming your brain. According to new research, binge drinking stunts the growth of a teenager’s brain.

The problem is global. Alcohol consumption has increased across the world and having one to six binge drinks a night has become a norm. However, people–especially teenagers–should take a minute and look at the downfall of having more than a few “beverages”.

Researchers at the Oregon Health and Science University recently experimented on adolescent monkeys and discovered that heavy exposure to alcohol decreased the development of the brain’s grey and white matter. Scientists believe that the same results will apply to us and it could adversely affect our ability to learn. As per the researchers, every gram of alcohol the monkeys consumed per kilogram of their weight, their body lost neurons by 0.25 milliliters per year.

If we talked in human terms, if we consumed about four beer per day, we could slowly reduce our ability to learn. Dr. Tatiana Shnitko, the lead author of the research, stated, “The alcohol abuse is especially dangerous in teen years as this usually is the age when the human brain gets trained to handle adult responsibilities.” This raises the question of whether such excessive alcohol consumption could affect the ability to learn new things permanently or not.

The study was published in eNeuro and it outlined that alcohol drinking during adulthood slowed down the brain growth in males and female rhesus monkeys. There was previous research in human and rodents that suggested the high alcohol consumption could reduce brain volume. Dr. Shnitko and team extended these findings and the study was supported by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism.

As per the scientists, the first long-term trial showed that the voluntary intake of alcohol in late teen ages and early adulthood could affect the development of the brain. The monkeys were categorized as heavy drinkers on the basis of their consumption and blood samples showed how much reduction they suffered in brain volume; especially, their white matter that helps them to talk and the thalamus–the region of grey matter–that relays sensory and motor information.

The scientists studied the brains of about 71 rhesus macaques using MRI scans after the consumption of alcohol for a period of nearly two years. They measured their intake, daily schedules, diet, and health care trends and after immense research, they concluded that chronic self-intoxication of alcohol reduced the growth of the brain, sub-cortical thalamus, and cerebral white matter.

This made clear that alcohol consumption among teenagers may actually slow down the rate of development of the brain. As most of the brain development takes place between the ages of 12 and 17, heavy drinking may result in mental illness.