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Effects of a persistent binge drinking pattern of alcohol consumption in young people

The objective of this study was to examine brain activity related to visual attention processes in youths who had maintained a binge drinking (BD) pattern of alcohol consumption for >2 years.

The participants were 57 university students (26 binge drinkers: BDs) with no personal or family history of alcoholism or psychopathological disorders in first-degree relatives. Event-related potentials (ERP), the measured brain responses, were recorded while participants performed a visual oddball task (twice within a 2-year interval). The latency and amplitude of the P3b component of the ERPs were analysed. (improbable events will elicit a P3b, and the less probable the event, the larger the P3b).

The P3b amplitude was larger in young BDs than in aged-matched controls at both evaluation times, and the difference was more pronounced after 2 years of maintenance of a BD pattern of consumption. The larger P3b amplitude was associated with an earlier onset of regular drinking and with a greater quantity and intensity of consumption.

The authors state that their findings suggest that young BDs exhibit anomalies in neural activity involved in attentional/working memory processes, which increase after 2 years of BD. This anomalous neural activity may reflect underlying dysfunctions in neurophysiological mechanisms as well as the recruitment of additional attentional/working memory resources to enable the binge drinkers to perform the task adequately.

Source: Effects of a Persistent Binge Drinking Pattern of Alcohol Consumption in Young People: A Follow-Up Study Using Event-Related Potentials. Eduardo López-Caneda, Fernando Cadaveira, Alberto Crego, Sonia Doallo, Montserrat Corral, Ana Gómez-Suárez and Socorro Rodríguez Holguín. Alcohol and Alcoholism. Published early online 21 May 2013.

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