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Study: Teenage Binge Drinking Has Lasting Effects On Brain

A picture of beer bottles

Psychiatrists at Duke University have found that administering high doses of alcohol to adolescent rats could limit their learning and memory into adulthood.

Their research shows binge drinking by adolescents can cause lasting changes in the hippocampus.

Co-author and Psychiatrist Scott Swartzwelder says that's the part of the brain concerned with learning and memory.

"Giving high doses of alcohol intermittently is more damaging to the brain long term than giving low doses every day, even if the amount of alcohol that they get were to be the same."

Swartzwelder says rats undergo similar brain changes to humans. He adds that this is important information for future research.

"It drills down into cellular mechanisms that might clue us into ways that we could reverse alcohol-induced deficits on learning and memory downstream in adulthood."

Swartzwelder says this could also be useful in public policy and discussions about the legal drinking age.

Rebecca Martinez produces podcasts at WUNC. She’s been at the station since 2013, when she produced Morning Edition and reported for newscasts and radio features. Rebecca also serves on WUNC’s Inclusion, Diversity, Equity and Accountability (IDEA) Committee.
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