ALBUQUERQUE, Oct. 20 (UPI) — Severe alcohol abuse in teens may damage their neural development in the part of the brain that deals with social skills and judgment, U.S. researchers say.
Robert J. Thoma of the University of New Mexico School of Medicine says during adolescent brain development, the frontal lobe plays an important role in the development of judgment, social skills and decision-making.
“Heavy drinking may disrupt normal neurodevelopmental processes that hone and sharpen attention and executive function during adolescence in that alcohol may selectively target the frontal lobes,” Thoma says in a statement.
The research team assessed 19 adolescents diagnosed with substance abuse/dependence, 14 who had a family history of substance abuse with no history of personal usage and 15 in a control group.
A battery of psychological tests found as drinking intensity increased, the teens demonstrated a significant decrease in attention and executive function — planning — while increased marijuana use in both groups was heavily associated with a decrease in memory performance.
“Recovery of function with cessation of drinking is a well-established finding in adults,” Thoma says. “And there is reason to believe that the same would hold in youth, who tend to be resilient.”
The findings are published online ahead of the January print edition of Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research.
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