You do not need to be an acute alcoholic to make your brain suffer because of your bad habit of excessive alcohol use.
The influence of alcoholic substance in any amount is linked to damaging the structure and system of the brain (1).
However, there is no other time when one’s brain can be as vulnerable to the impact of the alcohol as in adolescence when one is in his younger and more vulnerable years.
Teen years is the period when young individuals must be in contact with alcohol in the most reserved way possible, to say the least.
As I started writing this article, I perceived it as it is an actual dialogue between you and me and your little ones.
So, I do hope that all the knowledge you acquire from this piece of literature on neurocognition will come in handy for you and your (prospective) kiddos.
Admittedly, it is no secret to anybody that the use of alcohol is prohibited for those who have not accomplished twenty-one years old.
However, notwithstanding this fact, the unfortunate reality is that youngsters do consume spirits regardless of any governmental regulations.
According to ill-fated statistics, extreme use of alcohol is tied to more than four thousand deaths of underaged individuals on an annual basis.
Regrettably, over than ninety percent of the alcohol is drunk as heavy drinking.
A number of recent studies have shown that heavy drinking is linked to abnormal brain development.
Such abnormalities appear in the form of the structure of the volume of the brain, the quality of white matter, and activation of cognitive tasks.
In particular, the abnormalities manifest themselves when the period of consuming alcohol by young individuals is as little as one to two years.
Also, it is entirely the worst case for a still-developing brain when teenagers consume more than three drinks on a single occasion.
The Reduce in Gray Matter
Referring to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (2), in the year 2014 there was a number of 679,000 teenagers with an age range between twelve and seventeen years old, who had an alcohol use disorder (AUD).
367,000 of this lot were teenage females while 311,000 were adolescent boys.
Additionally, approximately 55,000 of those adolescents went to a rehab program in a specialized institution.
Even though cognitive impairment is linked to immoderate consumption of alcohol, its neural basis is still inadequately understood.
From here, Noora Heikkinen and society of researchers at the University of Eastern Finland (3) and Kuopio University Hospital (4) researched in regard to comparing the gray matter volume of both light-drinking and excessive-drinking youngsters.
Sixty-two participants aged between thirteen to twenty-eight years old took part in this research.
Of all of the participants, thirty-five were alcohol users (both social and acute) while twenty-seven of them were not.
The research was going on for a decade, and researchers followed participants during all this time.
It is worthy to note that all of the participants were academically successful, and the measure of mental health concerns did not contrast within the two groups.
Also, the participants from the excessive-drinking lot drank about six to nine units of alcohol per week, and they were not diagnosed with an alcohol use disorder.
However, the difference between the two groups lied in a fact that gray matter volumes in the heavy-drinking lot were significantly smaller when compared to the results of the light-drinking group.
N. Heikkinen, of whom is the lead author of the study, revealed that the maturation of the brain is a continuing process in teenage years.
In particular, this perspective applies to the frontal areas and the cingulate cortex, which in their turn keep developing until one’s early twenties.
Building on the results of this investigation, heavy alcohol users are more likely to disrupt the maturation process of their brains, thereby causing abnormal development and meagerer gray matter volume.
All in all, investigators came up to a conclusion that immoderate alcohol intake in adolescence is strongly linked with an abnormal development in gray matter.
Moreover, the fundamental changes spotted in the insula, (which is a section of the brain located far in the cerebral cortex) of alcohol users indicate a reduced sensitivity to alcohol’s adverse subjective effects.
It is essential to understand that cerebral blood flow (CBF) (5) is vital for inadequate blood flow is capable of damaging one’s brain tissue.
Medically speaking, chronic and acute alcoholics have been shown to have lessened blood flow into their brains.
For this particular reason, heavy alcohol drinkers tend to experience a very uncomfortable sensation similar to what individuals suffering from increased intracranial pressure (ICP) experience (6).
This, in turn, may result in headaches, migraines, and nausea.
There was one study in regard to examining cerebral blood flow, where alcohol-dependent young women participated. As a result, it has been revealed that the group of high-drinkers found more significant decreases of grey matter as compared to the group of light-drinkers.
The results of such studies might help explain the metabolic shifts behind diversity in functional brain activity seen in teenagers with histories of alcohol abuse.
There is no more unique period in neurodevelopment as the adolescence.
All surveys explicate that alcohol consumption among the young population is astonishingly high.
Regrettably, the most prominent issue is that a vast majority of these cases refer to excessive drinking.
Heavy drinking in its turn is strongly associated with behavioral problems, general health matters, and other adverse outcomes.
The latest study has shown that teenagers who have a bad habit of consuming extreme amounts of alcohol have abnormal brain development and smaller gray matter when compared to those who do not consume any alcoholic beverages.
I genuinely hope that this article will call for better measures in order to lower the rates of adolescent alcohol consumption.