Binge drinking and the adolescent frontal lobe

Project Members: 
image - Maree Teesson 0
Ph EA Jasmin Bartlett: 02 9385 0167 /
image - Louise Mewton
Senior Lecturer
Ph 02 89361131
Project Main Description: 

Adolescence is a critical period for brain development, with active rewiring of circuitry that is necessary in successful development of “adult” adaptive patterns of behaviour, such as the frontal lobe and its connections. Binge drinking practices may interfere with the development of these important circuits. The available evidence supports the hypothesis that heavy adolescent alcohol consumption disrupts cortical development and promotes continued impulsive behaviour, alcohol abuse and risk of alcohol dependence. However, there are few studies of the brain particularly targeted to binge drinking effects in adolescent humans and none examining the crucial development of connectivity in relation to cognition.

Our preliminary data (N = 49) show significant cognitive and structural deficits in binge drinkers compared to controls, as well as gender specific responses to binge drinking.

Project Collaborators: External: 

Professor Caroline Rae (NeuRA)

Dr Lucette Cysique (NeuRA)

Professor Roland Henry (Berkley USA)

  • Study brain connectivity patterns in adolescent binge drinkers and abstinent controls by structural and diffusion tensor magnetic resonance imaging and spectroscopy.
  • Examine the relationship between selected behavioural and cognitive functional outcomes and brain structure.
Design and Method: 

We will study 160 16-17 year olds (80 binge drinkers and 80 non-drinkers, 80 males, 80 females). Brain structure will be assessed using structural and diffusion MR imaging and spectroscopy with particular emphasis on later developing regions of the brain such as the frontal lobes, and vulnerable areas such as the hippocampus. Alcohol use, mood, emotional face recognition, memory, executive function and aggression will be measured and the relationship of these variables to brain structure determined. 


The project is ongoing, a paper is underway. 


New knowledge on the impact of binge drinking on brain development.

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