In news which may be of interest to international health insurance customers, research has found that binge drinking during adolescence can have a lasting effect on the brain.
This is partly due to the fact that the brain is undergoing a critical period of development between the ages of 12 and 20, the team from UNC School of Medicine explained.
Growth of the cortex is at a peak and there are some major rearrangements of neurons taking place, partly to help the brain adapt to life's demands as the individual approaches maturity.
Looking at a group of laboratory mice, the researchers found that those given large amounts of alcohol during adolescence, mimicking binge drinking behaviour in humans, had a smaller forebrain volume and size by the time they reached adulthood.
The team also found that the mice who were given large amounts of alcohol were much less behaviourally flexible in comparison to those not exposed to alcohol.
Fulton Crews, professor of pharmacology and director of the Bowles Center for Alcohol Studies who led the study, commented: "Our findings suggest that human individuals who drink heavily during adolescence may be more likely to have deficits in being able to adapt successfully to changing life situations as adults, possibly tied to chemical and or structural changes in the frontal cortex."