Binge-drinking can have a long-lasting negative effect on the brains of teenaged girls, hitting them harder than it does young boys, a new study shows.
Researchers from the University of California, San Diego (UCSD) and Stanford University found that girls who binge-drink -- defined as having four or more drinks for women and five or more for men -- showed less activity in several brain regions than teetotal teenagers, both girl and boy, the study said.
"These differences in brain activity were linked to worse performance on other measures of attention and working memory ability," Stanford University psychiatry professor Susan Tapert, a co-author of the study, said.
Male teenage binge-drinkers also showed some differences in brain activity to their non-drinking counterparts, but less abnormality than was seen in the girls, the study says.
"This suggests that female teens may be particularly vulnerable to the negative effects of heavy alcohol use," Tapert said.
Alcohol could affect teen girls' brains more than it does their male counterparts' for a number of reasons, including that girls' brains develop one to two years earlier than males', said Tapert. "So alcohol use during a different developmental stage -- despite the same age -- could account for the gender differences," she said.
The findings are "similar to what generally has been found in adult alcoholics: while both men and women are adversely affected, women are often more vulnerable than men to deleterious effects on the brain," Tapert said.