Minecraft test shows beer bad for young brain

January 25, 2016 by Matt Terry
Minecraft test shows beer bad for young brain

An experiment using the popular video game Minecraft has shown that teens who drink too much may be in for some serious consequences in the not-too-distant future.

Undergrads Amentha Rajagobal and Maya Sengupta-Murray have found that can have a significant impact on the developing brain – specifically the hippocampus, responsible for and .

Researchers have known for some time that alcohol can impact brain function in adults, but less is known about the effects of alcohol on young brains.

To test its impact, the students recruited undergraduate participants who answered questions about their use of alcohol: when did they take their first drink, how often do they drink, how much and so on.

They then asked the subjects to play a game in which they had to remember where objects were found in the world of Minecraft.

The pair of researchers found that those who started drinking at an earlier age, had more trouble remembering objects' locations than those who drank later in adolescence.

"The and the hippocampus keep developing into our twenties," says Rajagobal. "They keep growing and changing in ways the rest of the brain doesn't, so they're more susceptible to damage from things like drinking at an early age."

The effects of such damage, however, could extend well beyond the diminished ability to navigate through a , or even down the street.

"The hippocampus is used to form memories," says Sengupta-Murray. "Let's say you have a dog: you can smell it, you can hear it, you can feel it. The hippocampus connects all those sensations and forms the memories of your dog. If you damage your , it's not just that you'll have difficulty remembering where things are – it's that you'll have difficulty forming memories of anything."

What's most alarming about the research isn't even the results, but how quickly damage appears to be occurring amongst drinkers.

"These are the kind of results you'd expect from a 50-year-old alcoholic, not 19-year-old students," says Rajagobal. "We didn't expect to see such significant differences between drinkers and non-drinkers so early in life."

The results have had an immediate impact on the young researchers: Rajagobal and Sengupta-Murray drink much less than they used to.

"It's alarming," says Sengupta Murray. "The fact that three years of is enough to produce measurable deficits is frightening."

The research was performed for Sue Becker's fourth-year Cognitive Neuroscience course.

Explore further: Research finds similar neural reactions among drinkers, abstainers

Related Stories

Research finds similar neural reactions among drinkers, abstainers

August 27, 2015
College students who are light alcohol drinkers or abstainers react the same when they see alcohol as those who drink regularly or binge drink, according to a researcher at The University of Alabama.

Excessive alcohol when you're young could have lasting impacts on your brain

December 18, 2012
(Medical Xpress)—Alcohol misuse in young people causes significant changes in their brain function and structure. This and other findings were recently reviewed by Dr Daniel Hermens from the University of Sydney's Brain ...

Study highlights how former problem drinkers navigate social drinking situations

September 22, 2015
A small, qualitative study published in the journal Health Communication highlights a wide variety of approaches that former problem drinkers take to determine how and whether to tell people in social situations that they ...

Different memory resolutions map onto different brain locations

October 20, 2015
Neuroscientists from Radboud University's Donders Institute have shown that memories of the same events co-exist at different resolutions in the brain. Coarse and fine memory scales are distributed across different parts ...

"None for me, thanks"—social impact of changing alcohol habits

October 26, 2015
Drinking alcohol is a large aspect of Australian culture but what happens when someone decides to stop drinking or cut back their alcohol consumption?

Excessive alcohol use when you're young could have lasting impacts on your brain

January 30, 2013
Excessive alcohol use accounts for 4% of the global burden of disease, and binge drinking particularly is becoming an increasing health issue. A new review article published Cortex highlights the significant changes in brain ...

Recommended for you

Researchers crack the smile, describing three types by muscle movement

July 27, 2017
The smile may be the most common and flexible expression, used to reveal some emotions, cover others and manage social interactions that have kept communities secure and organized for millennia.

Even babies can tell who's the boss, UW research says

July 27, 2017
The charismatic colleague, the natural leader, the life of the party - all are personal qualities that adults recognize instinctively. These socially dominant types, according to repeated studies, also tend to accomplish ...

Ketamine for depression encouraging, but questions remain around long-term use

July 27, 2017
A world-first systematic review into the safety of ketamine as a treatment for depression, published in the prestigious Lancet Psychiatry, shows the risks of long-term ketamine treatment remain unclear.

Infants know what we like best, study finds

July 27, 2017
Behind the chubby cheeks and bright eyes of babies as young as 8 months lies the smoothly whirring mind of a social statistician, logging our every move and making odds on what a person is most likely to do next, suggests ...

DREAMers at greater risk for mental health distress

July 27, 2017
Immigrants who came to the United States illegally as small children and who meet the requirements of the Development Relief and Education for Alien Minors Act, more commonly known as DREAMers, are at risk for mental health ...

Negativity, be gone—new online tool can retrain your brain

July 27, 2017
Anxiety and depression can have devastating effects on people's lives. In some cases, the mental disorders lead to isolation, poverty and poor physical health, things that often cascade to future generations.


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.