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Teen Drinkers Suffer Nerve Damage in Brain, Study Finds

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California researchers who compared the brains of teen drinkers to non-drinkers found that young alcohol users suffered damage to nerve tissues that could cause attention deficits among boys and faulty visual information processing among girls.

NPR reported Jan. 25 that researcher Susan Tapert of the University of California at San Diego and colleagues studied the brains of 12- to 14-year-olds, starting before they began drinking and following them as some began using alcohol. Researchers found that those who binged on alcohol did worse on thinking and memory tests, but that the impairment differed by gender.

Adolescents, whose brains are still developing, are at particular risk from brain damage resulting from alcohol use, the researchers concluded. Taper's research showed that teen drinking negatively affected both the white matter (nerve tissue) and hippocampus region of the brain.

The study appears in the December 2009 issue of the journal Psychology of Addictive Behaviors.

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