Those of you planning a rager for the weekend may want to postpone when you read the latest news surrounding everyone's favorite topic, binge drinking. Now, research shows even intermittent binge drinking can result in brain damage after a few short months.
The study, from the Scripps Research Institute, tested rats who drank alcohol steadily over six weeks and "binge-drinking" rats, who were only allowed to drink three days a week. They found that the rats who were restricted from drinking steadily over the course of the test drank far more than their counterparts. And those binge-drinking rats showed poor memory during their dry spells. But it goes much deeper than that: Those who exhibited binge drinking had neurons with unsually high activity in the prefrontal cortex, which is the control center for emotional and impulsive behavior. The Daily Mail explains that the more active the neurons were, the more the participants drank — and that could be the slippery slope into alcholism. Explained lead researcher Olivier George, "It’s like a lot of things in life that the brain perceives as good — if it loses access to it, you feel bad, you get into a negative emotional state, a little bit frustrated, and so you take more the next time you have access... We suspect that this very early adaptation of the brain to intermittent alcohol use helps drive the transition from ordinary social drinking to binge drinking and dependence."
Of course, the research is alarming for adolescents and teens who drink, because their prefrontal cortex isn't even developed yet. May we recommend one cocktail tonight, instead of eight?