Alcoholism, like smoking, is considered a stepping stone to many diseases. A new study is now talking about the damaging effects of alcohol consumption on adolescents.
It says heavy use of alcohol during adolescence will change the electrical activity in the brain. Precisely, those changes affect cortical excitability and functional connectivity of the brain, according to the study by researchers at University of Eastern Finland and Kuopio University Hospital.
Those alterations in the brain happen even if the individuals are physically and mentally agile and do not meet the diagnostic criteria for substance abuse disorder.
The findings are published in Addiction Biology.
Alterations In Brain Activity
The study found significant alterations in both electrical and chemical neurotransmission faculties in the study participants. This is despite none of them meeting the criteria for a substance abuse disorder.
For the study, researchers undertook a follow-up of 27 adolescents who were die-hard drinkers during adolescence. The study derived the results by comparing and contrasting 25 samples who had no background of alcohol use but were a match in terms of age, gender and education.
The brain activity of participants was analyzed using transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) from age 23 to 28 with simultaneous electroencephalogram (EEG) recording.
While administering TMS, magnetic pulses are directed at the head to activate cortical neuronal cells. Magnetic pulses are safe and pain-free even if they pass the skull.
The analysis was based on electrical activity and quick-temperateness of the cortex. It gave an insight on how different regions of the cortex are reacting to electrical simulations and the scale of interconnectedness. It also gave an idea about the chemical transmission or mediator function in the participants.
In heavy drinkers, the cortical response to the TMS pulse was stronger and greater electrical activity in the cortex was also noticed.
The hyperactivity of neurotransmitter gamma-aminobutyric Acid (GABA) would mean more anxiety, depression and a trigger for many neurological disorders.
Researchers were convinced that heavy alcohol use sparked changes in the electrical and chemical neurotransmission of the study participants.
Previous studies have also shown harmful effects of excessive alcohol use in adolescence with changes causing cortical thinning even in those who fell short of the standards on the substance abuse related disorder.
Meanwhile, the study has raised questions whether current diagnostic criteria for substance abuse disorders have to be made stricter for adolescents, or if they should be sent out for treatment.
But the finding has been clear that a developing brain poses threat from the use of alcohol though it takes time to show alcohol-related effects in life. The study is unique as problems of alcohol use among adolescents have not been studied before.