Student binge drinking linked to memory loss
Posted May 24, 2011 at 6:14 pm in News
Binge drinking, or excessive drinking in one sitting, has proven detrimental to the short- and long-term health of college-aged individuals.
Now it seems the effects of binge drinking could stretch all the way into the classroom, after a Spanish study found college students who binged had more trouble performing simple word memory tests when sober than those who did not binge drink.
Researchers at the University of Santiago de Compostela, led by Maria Parada, provided 122 students ‚ÄĒ all between the ages of 18 and 20 years old ‚ÄĒ with trials that tested various types of memory.
Students were first tested in their ability to recall a simple list of words. They were also administered tests that measured the students‚Äô ability to recall a story told to them. Finally, the students‚Äô visual memories were tested by providing four images and asking participants to recall information from the pictures.
Roughly half of the 122 test subjects were self-identified binge drinkers while the remaining subjects self-identified as more casual drinkers.
The difference between the two groups was statistically significant, as those who self-identified as bingers under performed on all word-based tests when compared to their non-binge drinking counterparts.
‚Äú[The] results suggest that [binge drinking] subjects need more neural resources to perform the memory task and that they experience greater difficulty in inhibiting interference from the distractors [sic],‚ÄĚ the study said.
The study, which will be published in August in the journal Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research, could not draw a direct cause-and-effect relationship between binge drinking and memory loss. Researchers were able to draw a ‚Äúclear association‚ÄĚ between the two characteristics, however, a result they attributed to the hippocampus and prefrontal cortex regions of the brain.
The hippocampus, which is involved in the formation of both short- and long-term memory, organizing and storage as well as learning, is especially susceptible to damage from drinking, the Galicia, Spain-area researchers stated in their report.
‚ÄúThis is an important topic and a multifaceted problem,‚ÄĚ told Thomas Hicklin, assistant professor of clinical psychiatry and behavioral sciences to the Huffington Post. ‚ÄúThere‚Äôs a lot of peer pressure when it comes to binge drinking, but students need to protect their brains.‚ÄĚ
Parada and her team were unable to draw the direct link between binging and the lower performance on the memory tests, despite controlling for possible confounding variables ‚ÄĒ including differences in intellectual ability, cannabis use, age onset of drinking, family socioeconomic status, family history of alcoholism or psychopathology.
Parada and her team admitted that there could be variables that cause this association that the research did not account for, or that the two characteristics could be related in a slightly different way than what the study suggests. The published report calls for more long-term studies to expound upon the findings of this eye-opening trial.
Still, Parada and her team felt their work was an important first step in protecting students when it comes to their drinking habits.
‚ÄúIt [is] important to determine whether differences in performance between the binge drinkers and non-binge drinkers may have repercussions on academic performance,‚ÄĚ the study said.