Moderate drinking decreases number of new brain cells

October 24, 2012

Drinking a couple of glasses of wine each day has generally been considered a good way to promote cardiovascular and brain health. But a new Rutgers University study indicates that there is a fine line between moderate and binge drinking – a risky behavior that can decrease the making of adult brain cells by as much as 40 percent.

In a study posted online in the journal Neuroscience, scheduled to be published on November 8, lead author Megan Anderson, a graduate student working with Dr. Tracey J. Shors, Professor II in Behavioral and Systems Neuroscience in the Department of Psychology at Rutgers, reported that moderate to – drinking less during the week and more on the weekends – significantly reduces the structural integrity of the adult brain.

" can become binge drinking without the person realizing it," said Anderson. "In the short term there may not be any noticeable motor skills or overall functioning problems, but in the long term this type of behavior could have an adverse effect on learning and memory."

Shors and Anderson worked with postdoctoral fellow Miriam Nokia from the University of Jyvaskyla in Finland to model moderate to heavy drinking in humans – the rodents voluntarily reaching a blood alcohol level of 0.08 percent, the legal driving limit in the United States and many other countries – brain cell production was affected negatively.

The researchers discovered that at this level of intoxication in rats – comparable to about 3-4 drinks for women and five drinks for men – the number of nerve cells in the hippocampus of the brain were reduced by nearly 40 percent compared to those in the abstinent group of rodents. The is a part of the brain where the new neurons are made and is also known to be necessary for some types of new learning.

This level of was not enough to impair the motor skills of either male or or prevent them from associative learning in the short-term. Still, Anderson said, this substantial decrease in brain cell numbers over time could have profound effects on the structural plasticity of the adult brain because these new cells communicate with other neurons to regulate brain health.

"If this area of your brain was affected every day over many months and years, eventually you might not be able to learn how to get somewhere new or to learn something new about your life," said Anderson, a graduate fellow in the Department of Neuroscience and Cell Biology at Rutgers. "It's something that you might not even be aware is occurring."

According to the National Institute of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, men who drink 14 drinks a week and women who drink seven are considered at-risk drinkers. Although college students commonly binge drink, according to the institute, 70 percent of binge drinking episodes involved adults age 26 and older.

"This research indicates that social or daily drinking may be more harmful to than what is now believed by the general public," she said.

Explore further: The effect of occasional binge drinking on heart disease and mortality among moderate drinkers

More information: www.sciencedirect.com/science/ … ii/S0306452212008457

Related Stories

The effect of occasional binge drinking on heart disease and mortality among moderate drinkers

February 2, 2012
Most studies have found that binge drinking is associated with a loss of alcohol's protective effect against ischemic heart disease (IHD) and most studies have found an increase of coronary risk among binge drinkers.

Study reveals possible brain damage in young adult binge-drinkers

June 27, 2011
It's considered a rite of passage among young people – acting out their independence through heavy, episodic drinking. But a new University of Cincinnati study, the first of its kind nationally, is showing how binge ...

Moderate alcohol consumption may increase risk of atrial fibrillation in people with heart disease

October 1, 2012
Moderate alcohol consumption increases the risk of atrial fibrillation in older people with heart disease or advanced diabetes, found a study in CMAJ (Canadian Medical Association Journal).

Recommended for you

Americans misinformed about smoking

August 22, 2017
After voluminous research studies, numerous lawsuits and millions of deaths linked to cigarettes, it might seem likely that Americans now properly understand the risks of smoking.

Women who sexually abuse children are just as harmful to their victims as male abusers

August 21, 2017
"That she might seduce a helpless child into sexplay is unthinkable, and even if she did so, what harm can be done without a penis?"

To reduce postoperative pain, consider sleep—and caffeine

August 18, 2017
Sleep is essential for good mental and physical health, and chronic insufficient sleep increases the risk for several chronic health problems.

Despite benefits, half of parents against later school start times

August 18, 2017
Leading pediatrics and sleep associations agree: Teens shouldn't start school so early.

Doctors exploring how to prescribe income security

August 18, 2017
Physicians at St. Michael's Hospital are studying how full-time income support workers hired by health-care clinics can help vulnerable patients or those living in poverty improve their finances and their health.

Schoolchildren who use e-cigarettes are more likely to try tobacco

August 17, 2017
Vaping - or the use of e-cigarettes - is widely accepted as a safer option for people who are already smoking.

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.