Binge-Drinking Impairs Brain: New Study

By Zack
July 7, 2013 6:28 pm Last Updated: July 18, 2015 5:19 pm

Binge-drinkers have to work harder to perform random tasks, says a new study.

Researchers from the University of Santiago de Compostela in Spain compared 26 binge-drinking students with 31 others who didn’t drink as much and found that the binge drinkers had to use more brain power to complete random visual tasks.

The groups were asked to react to different flashing symbols when sober. Although there wasn’t any measurable difference in speed or accuracy of response between the two groups, the binge-drinking group’s peak brain activity started at 20 microvolts in the first year of the study and was up to 22 microvolts in the third year of the study, according to the Daily Mail. The other students peak brain activity was about 18 microvolts the whole time.

The research was published in the journal Alcohol and Alcoholism and titled “Effects of a Persistent Binge Drinking Pattern of Alcohol Consumption in Young People: A Follow-Up Study Using Event-Related Potentials.”

“These findings suggest that young [binge-drinkers] exhibit anomalies in neural activity involved in attentional/working memory processes, which increase after 2 years of maintenance of [binge-drinking],” the researchers write in the study abstract. “This anomalous neural activity may reflect underlying dysfunctions in neurophysiological mechanisms as well as the recruitment of additional attentional/working memory resources to enable the binge drinkers to perform the task adequately.”

Binge-drinking was classified as drinking a minimum of six units of alcohol, or around three pints, in one sitting at least once a week. 

‘This shows why we need to change the culture where it’s seen as the norm to drink excessively  at university,” Emily Robinson, director of the campaign group Alcohol Concern, told the Daily Mail. “Binge-drinking carries lots of risks in terms of the immediate safety of students, but also in terms of their future health and the likelihood of developing an alcohol problem later in life.”