Published January 13, 2015
Binge-drinking teenagers are putting their memory at risk because of the damage booze is doing to their brains, new research suggests.
Psychologists have discovered alarming levels of everyday memory loss among university students who indulge in regular heavy drinking sessions.
"There is evidence that excess alcohol and binge drinking in particular damages parts of the brain that underpin everyday memory," said study leader Dr. Thomas Heffernan, from the University of Northumbria.
The findings were presented this week at the British Psychological Society conference.
Question and answer tests showed the teens were affected even when they thought their memory was fine, the psychologists revealed.
The findings appear to have a strong impact on prospective memory — that is the kind used to remember future tasks, such as calling a friend or buying washing powder from the supermarket.
Binge drinking is already known to affect people's memories of past events, but the new findings suggest that the damage it causes may be even more serious in teenagers.
The scientists who carried out the research on students aged 17 to 19 believe the harm caused to the brain may be long lasting or even permanent.
Teenage brains are thought to be especially vulnerable because their internal wiring is still developing, with new nerve connections continually being created.
"Not only may these teenagers be harming their memory, if their brains are still developing they could be storing up problems for the future," Hefferman said.
He believes easily available alcohol is not a good idea.
"I think having a hard line on binge drinking is a good idea, but you've got to cut the source off, the supply," he said.