Just as Americans prepped for July barbecues, scientists at Columbia University dropped a sobering piece of news about the effects of binge drinking. Especially for teens, it can have a lasting and dangerous impact on memory.
This summer, Sarah Sloat reported on a paper published in the Journal of Neuroscience that investigated how binge drinking fundamentally altered the activity of neurons in the prefrontal cortex — an area of the brain where short-term and working memories dwell. In the study, anesthesiologists Michael Salling, Ph.D., and Neil Harrison, Ph.D., found that mice who chose to binge drink ended up dampening the activity of neurons in that crucial brain region, making it harder for the cells to communicate with one another.
This spells bad news for human teens who binge drink because their prefrontal cortex already isn’t entirely online until their 20s, noted Salling. Messing with the neurons before they’re completely done developing could lead to longer-term memory issues as they age.