Binge drinking linked to poorer verbal declarative memory

Updated: May 17, 2011, 14:08 PM IST

Washington: A new study has established a clear link between binge drinking and a reduced ability to learn new verbal information.

One brain structure particularly sensitive to alcohol``s neurotoxicity during development is the hippocampus, which plays a key role in learning and memory.

María Parada, a postdoctoral researcher at the Universidade de Santiago de Compostela and her colleagues examined 122 Spanish university students between 18 and 20 years of age divided into two groups: those who engaged in binge drinking (n=62; 32 men, 30 women) and those who did not (n=60; 31 men, 29 women).

All were administered a neuropsychological assessment that included the Rey Auditory Verbal Learning Test and the Wechsler Memory Scale-3rd ed. (WMS-III) Logical Memory subtest to measure verbal declarative memory, as well as the WMS-III Family Pictures subtest to measure visual declarative memory.

"Our main finding was a clear association between binge drinking and a lower ability to learn new verbal information in healthy college students, even after controlling for other possible confounding variables such as intellectual levels, history of neurological or psychopathological disorders, other drug use, or family history of alcoholism," said Parada.

"Young adults with a binge drinking pattern of alcohol consumption who have poorer verbal declarative memory will need more neural resources to perform memory tasks and to learn new information, which probably would affect their academic performance," observed Rodríguez Alvarez.

One of the strengths of this study, added Parada, is that it controlled for confounding variables such as psychiatric comorbidity, genetic vulnerability, or other drug use, such as marijuana.

"This allowed us to establish a clearer association between binge drinking patterns and poorer performance on memory tasks," she said.

An additional strength, said Rodríguez Álvarez, was the finding that women are not more vulnerable than men to the neurotoxic effects of binge drinking."

ANI