Binge-drinking teens may be risking future depression

November 15, 2010

Binge-drinking teenagers may be putting themselves at higher risk in adulthood for mood disorders such as anxiety and depression, Loyola University Health System researchers report.

A new Loyola study has found that exposing adolescent rats to binge amounts of alcohol permanently altered the system that produces hormones in response to stress. This disruption in "might lead to behavioral and/or mood disorders in adulthood," researchers reported.

Senior author Toni Pak, PhD, and colleagues reported their findings Nov. 15 at the annual meeting of the Society for Neuroscience in San Diego.

While results from animal studies don't directly translate to people, the findings do suggest a mechanism by which teenage binge drinking could cause in adulthood, Pak said.

"Exposing young people to alcohol could permanently disrupt normal connections in the that need to be made to ensure healthy adult ," Pak said.

Binge drinking is defined as a woman having at least four drinks or a man having at least five drinks on one occasion. Heavy binge drinkers can consume 10 to 15 drinks. Binge drinking typically begins around age 13 and peaks between 18 and 22, before gradually decreasing. Thirty-six percent of youths ages 18 to 20 reported at least one binge-drinking episode during the past 30 days, according to the Substance Abuse and Administration.

The Loyola study examined the long-term effects of alcohol on the production of the stress hormone corticosterone in rats. (The equivalent stress hormone in humans is cortisol).

Humans and rats produce stress hormones in response to physical or psychological stress. For example, in a "fight-or-flight" situation, a jolt of cortisol provides a burst of energy and a lower sensitivity to pain, while suppressing functions that aren't immediately needed, such as digestion. However, chronic exposure to cortisol and other stress hormones has been linked to depression, cardiovascular disease and other problems.

In the study, researchers exposed adolescent rats to an 8-day pattern: three days of alcohol binging, two days off, then three more days of binging. On binge days, rats were injected with enough alcohol to raise their blood alcohol concentration to between 0.15 percent and 0.2 percent. (In humans such concentrations would be roughly 2 to 2.5 times higher than the 0.08 legal limit for driving.)A control group of rats received injections of saline.

One month later, when the rats were young adults, they were exposed to one of three regimens: saline injections, a one-time alcohol injection or a binge-pattern of alcohol exposure. Alcohol is a form of stress, so not surprisingly, the animals that had either a one-time or binge alcohol exposure produced more of the corticosterone stress hormone. A more significant finding is that among rats that had received alcohol during adolescence, there was a significantly larger spike in corticosterone when they received alcohol during adulthood. These rats also had a lower base level of than rats that had remained sober during adolescence. These findings suggest that alcohol exposure during puberty permanently alters the system by which the brain triggers the body to produce stress hormones.

Related Stories

Recommended for you

Researchers find monkey brain structure that decides if viewed objects are new or unidentified

August 18, 2017
A team of researchers working at the University of Tokyo School of Medicine has found what they believe is the part of the monkey brain that decides if something that is being viewed is recognizable. In their paper published ...

Artificial neural networks decode brain activity during performed and imagined movements

August 18, 2017
Artificial intelligence has far outpaced human intelligence in certain tasks. Several groups from the Freiburg excellence cluster BrainLinks-BrainTools led by neuroscientist private lecturer Dr. Tonio Ball are showing how ...

Study of nervous system cells can help to understand degenerative diseases

August 18, 2017
The results of a new study show that many of the genes expressed by microglia differ between humans and mice, which are frequently used as animal models in research on Alzheimer's disease and other neurodegenerative disorders.

How whip-like cell appendages promote bodily fluid flow

August 18, 2017
Researchers at Nagoya University have identified a molecule that enables cell appendages called cilia to beat in a coordinated way to drive the flow of fluid around the brain; this prevents the accumulation of this fluid, ...

Researchers make surprising discovery about how neurons talk to each other

August 17, 2017
Researchers at the University of Pittsburgh have uncovered the mechanism by which neurons keep up with the demands of repeatedly sending signals to other neurons. The new findings, made in fruit flies and mice, challenge ...

Neurons involved in learning, memory preservation less stable, more flexible than once thought

August 17, 2017
The human brain has a region of cells responsible for linking sensory cues to actions and behaviors and cataloging the link as a memory. Cells that form these links have been deemed highly stable and fixed.

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.