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Teen Brains & Drinking

March 11, 2010

Teen binge drinking causes brain damage and cognitive impairments that may be permanent.


A peril of teenage drinking. I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

Research suggests that teenage binge drinking has an intellectual price. The latest comes from psychiatrist Susan Tapert of the University of California at San Diego. Her team evaluated middle schoolers who hadn’t started drinking, and then tracked them for several years. Those who began to drink heavily showed visible damage to their brain’s white matter – the tissue that relays information. And that’s not all.

SUSAN TAPERT (University of California, San Diego):
We found that those who initiated heavy drinking began to perform more poorly on several kinds of tests.

She says girls who drank heavily fell behind on spatial tasks, compared with their non-binging peers. But binge-drinking boys suffered in their attention to detail. Tapert says the difference may reflect areas of relative vulnerability for each gender. I’m Bob Hirshon for AAAS, the Science Society.