*The following is excerpted from an online article posted on News Medical.
Findings from a new study showed that the amount of alcohol consumed during adolescence adversely affected verbal learning and memory (VLM) performance in a dose-dependent manner.
Adolescence is both a time of rapid neurobiological changes and of the initiation of drinking - alcohol is the most commonly used substance among students in grades eight to 12. Binge-drinking effects are particularly concerning, although it is unclear whether and how much it affects neurocognitive performance. The study looked at two questions: first, whether moderate, binge, or extreme-binge drinking in adolescence had an impact on later performance in tests of VLM; and second, whether the amount of alcohol consumed is associated with specific changes in learning and memory during six years of adolescence.
Researchers examined participants who were known to begin drinking during adolescence (n=112), giving them VLM assessments at two different times: first, prior to the onset of drinking (at age 12-16); and second, approximately six years later. Participants were grouped, based on their alcohol involvement at follow-up, as moderate (≤4 drinks per occasion), binge (5+ drinks per occasion), or extreme-binge (10+ drinks per occasion) drinkers.
The acquisition of new verbal information seemed to be particularly affected, especially for the heaviest drinkers. While there were no gender differences in VLM performance, the study's authors note that the extreme-binge group had roughly 50 percent more boys than the moderate and binge groups, which is consistent with data showing that high-school boys are up to three times more likely to be extreme-binge drinkers.