Even Moderate Drinking May Slow Your Brain

By Chrisanne Grise 07/08/13

A new study finds drinking three pints a week can permanently slow your brain by 20%.

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Drinking just three pints of beer or three medium glasses of wine a week can slow your brain permanently, according to a new study published in the journal Alcohol and Alcoholism. Researchers at the University of Santiago de Compostela in Spain compared 26 binge-drinker students—those who drank at least six units of alcohol in one sitting once a week—with 31 students who abstained from alcohol. After consuming the booze, the participants were asked to react to different flashing symbols. While there was no noticeable difference in speed or accuracy of responses between the two groups, the binge drinkers had to use 20% more brain power to achieve the same results. Researchers say this proves that drinkers “experience anomalies in neural activity” which can impact their working memory and their ability to pay attention. “This shows why we need to change the culture where it’s seen as the norm to drink excessively at university,” says Emily Robinson, director of the campaign group Alcohol Concern. “Binge-drinking carries lots of risks in terms of the immediate safety of students, but also in terms of their future health and the likelihood of developing an alcohol problem later in life.” In fact, the culture on campus may already be changing: A 2012 report found that college drinking is currently at an all-time low.

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Chrisanne Grise is a multimedia journalist specializing in health/fitness, lifestyle, travel, bridal, and music. Her work has appeared in print and online for publications such as Martha Stewart Weddings, Parents, FitnessMagazine, Fisher Price, Bridal Guide, Scholastic's Choices, AbsolutePunk.net, Chorus.fm, and more. She is the Senior Editor at The New York Times Upfront. Follow her on Linkedin and Twitter.