Binge drinking


The effect of binge drinking on the teenage brain


In adolescence, the brain undergoes active rewiring of circuitry that is necessary for successful development of ‘adult’ adaptive patterns of behaviour and cognitive functioning, with particular focus on the frontal lobe and its connections. Prof Lindy Rae is examining this connectivity in the brains of binge drinkers and comparing these ‘tracts’ to those from control (abstaining) participants. We are also studying the size of brain regions known to be affected by alcohol, such as the hippocampus, to see whether brain structure is altered by binge drinking.

We are using questionnaires, cognitive testing and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to look for changes in structure and connectivity as well as chemical differences in the brain.

Alcohol is thought to induce a state where the glutamate system – the major excitatory system in the brain – becomes unbalanced. We have found significant elevations in frontal lobe glutamate in boys who binge drink. Binge drinkers showed impaired neuro-cognitive function, with significantly slower responses and greater errors on the tests of inhibition and poorer emotional face recognition compared to non-drinkers. These changes were positively correlated with binge drinking episodes and alcohol consumption.

We are recruiting the final 12 participants

Neuroscience Research Australia and The National Drug and Alcohol Research Centre at the The University of New South Wales are conducting a study on the adolescent brain. We are looking for 16- and 17-year-olds who either drink alcohol regularly or do not drink alcohol at all to help us understand more about the brain during adolescence. Participation involves questionnaires/tests and a brain MRI (reimbursement: $95).
For more information, email Dr Lucette Cysique:


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