How harmful is alcohol for the adolescent brain?

May 11, 2017
Credit: Leiden University

Under 18, no alcohol. In spite of this slogan, adolescents still have access to alcohol. But how harmful is that one beer for the adolescent brain? Research, including in Leiden, may provide the answer.

Over 43 per cent of young people between the ages of 14 and 18 have drunk at some point in time. The is still developing and the consequences of are as yet not fully known. Dr Sabine Peters, from Leiden University, who is one of the researchers in this project, comments: "We think that the is more sensitive than the adult brain to alcohol, simply bcause the adolescent brain is still developing. The connections between brain cells are not as robust as in adults, which means they are more easily disrupted."

Existing brain scans

Leiden University is working with research groups at Erasmus MC, the Vrije Universiteit and UMC Utrecht. These four institutions each analyse their own data, taken from existing of some 1,400 adolescents. The research follows the adolescents over a number of years, during which two points in time are compared: a point when the have never drunk alcohol and a point after they have. These scans make it possible to map the consequences of alcohol use. The researchers are also studying the effect of alcohol use on adolescents' cognitive abilities.

Awareness

The large-scale research project is taking place at the request of the Brain Foundation of the Netherlands. "We want to use this research to show the possible risk factors and make people more aware of them," commented Dr Loes van Herten, Head of the Healthy Brain department at the Brain Foundation.

Replication

"Surprisingly enough, little research has been done on the effect of alcohol on the adolescent brain," Peters comments. "Most of the research has been done on animals, but it doesn't really translate well into humans." Peters explains that the research focuses directly on replication. "We first look per research group at the effects of alcohol use on the adolescent brain. We then look at whether we find the same outcomes with other datasets where some other factor is being measured. To date, very little research has been done on this question, and certainly not in a replication study with several different large-scale datasets, so this is exciting ."

The data that Leiden University is making available comes from the Brain Time study, a large-scale longitudinal study in which three hundred adolescents have taken part. These young participants underwent MRI scans at two-year intervals, so that researchers could map the development of the brain.

Explore further: Heavy alcohol use in adolescence alters brain electrical activity

Related Stories

Heavy alcohol use in adolescence alters brain electrical activity

January 18, 2017
Long-term heavy use of alcohol in adolescence alters cortical excitability and functional connectivity in the brain, according to a new study from the University of Eastern Finland and Kuopio University Hospital. These alterations ...

Should parents give their children alcohol?

March 10, 2017
Children and teens who are given alcohol by their parents are twice as likely to be drinking full serves of alcohol by age 15 or 16, but are much less likely to binge drink, a UNSW study shows.

Heavy alcohol use changes adolescents' brains

December 8, 2016
Heavy alcohol use during adolescence alters the development of brain, according to a recent study from the University of Eastern Finland and Kuopio University Hospital. Cortical thinning was observable in young people who ...

MRI brain scans may help identify risks, prevent adolescent substance abuse

February 2, 2017
Neuroimaging of the brain using technologies such as magnetic resonance imaging, or MRIs, increasingly is showing promise as a technique to predict adolescent vulnerability to substance abuse disorders, researchers conclude ...

Aggressive behaviour increases adolescent drinking, depression doesn't

August 6, 2014
Adolescents who behave aggressively are more likely to drink alcohol and in larger quantities than their peers, according to a recent study completed in Finland. Depression and anxiety, on the other hand, were not linked ...

Mixing energy drinks, alcohol may affect adolescent brains like cocaine

October 24, 2016
Drinking highly caffeinated alcoholic beverages triggers changes in the adolescent brain similar to taking cocaine, and the consequences last into adulthood as an altered ability to deal with rewarding substances, according ...

Recommended for you

Study finds medical cannabis is effective at reducing opioid addiction

November 17, 2017
A new study conducted by researchers at The University of New Mexico, involving medical cannabis and prescription opioid use among chronic pain patients, found a distinct connection between having the legal ability to use ...

Insomnia linked to alcohol-use frequency among early adolescents, says new psychology study

November 8, 2017
Insomnia is linked to frequency of alcohol use among early adolescents, according to new Rutgers University–Camden research.

Large declines seen in teen substance abuse, delinquency

October 25, 2017
More than a decade of data indicates teens have become far less likely to abuse alcohol, nicotine and illicit drugs, and they also are less likely to engage in delinquent behaviors, such as fighting and stealing, according ...

Trying to get sober? NIH offers tool to help find good care

October 3, 2017
The phone calls come—from fellow scientists and desperate strangers—with a single question for the alcohol chief at the National Institutes of Health: Where can my loved one find good care to get sober?

Medical students need training to prescribe medical marijuana

September 15, 2017
Although 29 states and the District of Columbia allow marijuana use for medical purposes, few medical students are being trained how to prescribe the drug. Researchers at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis ...

Protein links alcohol abuse and changes in brain's reward center

September 8, 2017
When given access to alcohol, over time mice develop a pattern similar to what we would call "problem drinking" in people, but the brain mechanisms that drive this shift have been unclear. Now a team of UC San Francisco researchers ...

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.