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Drink can ruin teen memories

TEENAGERS who binge drink are damaging their memories, new research shows.

A study, the first of its kind, demonstrated a link between teen binge drinking and damage to "prospective memory".

This is an important aspect of day to day memory function and defined as "the cognitive ability to remember to carry out an activity at some future point in time". Researchers said examples include forgetting to attend an appointment at the dentist or not remembering to pay a bill on time.

Dr Tom Heffernan, who led the study at Northumbria University, said: "It's important to realise there are no 'safe levels' of drinking set for teenagers and that the amount of bingeing revealed in the study represents a high volume of alcohol intake across the two to three bingeing sessions which were the norm in the group.

"The high levels of drinking amongst teenagers is worrying, given the mounting evidence that the teenage brain is still maturing and undergoing significant development in terms of its structure and function.

"Given that teenagers are inexperienced drinkers who have both a low tolerance for alcohol and immature neuro-physiological systems, they should therefore be drinking much less than the 'safe' levels recommended for adults," Dr Heffernan said.

Researchers tested the ability of 50 university students to remember a series of tasks.

They were shown a 10-minute video clip of a shopping district and asked to carry out a series of instructions when they saw specified locations.

The study found that the binge drinkers recalled significantly fewer location-action/ items combinations than their non-bingeing peers.

Dr Heffernan said the mechanisms that may underlie "such everyday cognitive impairments associated with binge drinking are not yet fully understood".

"It is possible that excessive drinking may interfere with the neuro-cognitive development of the teenage brain," he added.

One other finding of the study is that binge drinkers do not perceive themselves to have a poor memory -- suggesting teens do not appreciate the damage that is being done.