Binge drinking can harm the brains of teenage girls, affecting them more than it does teenage boys, according to new research.
A study from the University of California, San Diego and Stanford University found that teen girls who binge drink experienced negative effects on their brains, including less activity in brain regions linked to memory compared to non-drinking teenagers.
The study, published in "Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research," says nearly three in 10 American teens in their final year of high school had reported binge drinking in the past month.
Binge drinking is defined as having four or more alcoholic drinks for women, and five or more for men.
The authors conclude that "women may be more vulnerable to the neurotoxic effects of heavy alcohol use during adolescence, while men may be more resilient to the deleterious effects of binge drinking," ABC News Radio reports.
"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, told Agence France-Presse.
Other scientists have warned that the negative effects on the brain could linger and perhaps even harm brain function for years to come.
Tapert said the research suggests that teen girls may be especially vulnerable to the negative effects of heavy drinking, possibly because girls’ brains develop a year or two earlier than boys’ brains. Other potential reasons include hormonal differences between girls and boys, and girls’ slower rate of metabolism, she said.
Similar findings have been found in adults, with women more vulnerable to the negative effects on the brain of binge drinking than men.
Edith Sullivan, a professor at the Stanford University School of Medicine, warned that the negative effects of excessive drinking lasts for longer than the booze buzz.
"Long after a young person — middle school to college — enjoys recovery from a hang-over, this study shows that risk to cognitive and brain functions endures," Sullivan said.
In a new animal study from Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, researchers found that while binge drinking may not damage brain cells as commonly thought, it could block key receptors in the brain and interfere with brain functions essential for learning and memory.