Students who binge drink are at risk of serious injuries, health problems and developing an alcohol addiction, but they’re also harming their ability to learn and remember, says a recent study.
A study by researchers at Universidade de Santiago de Compostela, Spain, says that the brain region responsible for retaining and learning information, called the hippocampus, is particularly vulnerable to damage from alcohol. Study findings, highlighted in a ScienceDaily article, will appear in Alcoholism: clinical & Experimental Research in August 2011.
Study authors said the problem of young people sporadically binge drinking in northern European regions is escalating, in comparison to other European areas where more consistent, moderate amounts of alcohol are consumed. Binge drinking is also a rising concern in the U.S., especially among college campuses. Binge drinking in the U.S. is typically defined as consuming four to five alcoholic beverages in an hour, but the definition of a binge drinking episode can vary depending on a person’s gender and other physical traits.
Researchers said that studies with animals and humans have showed changes in the hippocampus area of the brain, which is linked to a person’s ability to retain information for long periods. They believe students who binge drink could be negatively impacting their ability to learn and remember, which can affect them even past their young adult years. During this particular study, researchers gave neuropsychological tests to 122 participants who were attending a university in Spain. They looked at factors including long-term memory and verbal memory, comparing the results from students who were binge drinkers and those who were not.
Results, say researchers, pointed to a lesser capacity for the binge drinkers to acquire new information, especially if the information is given verbally. While several factors can influence students’ performance at school, researchers say the study suggests a link between declining memory function and binge drinking and expressed concern that many students remain uninformed of the serious risks associated with binge drinking.