A group of researchers from the University of Minnesota have looked into problematic alcohol use and how it affects children, teenagers and young adult brains. Their results were published in Psychological Medicine, an international journal in the fields of psychiatry and clinical psychology. The researchers pointed to the fact that there already is evidence suggesting that problematic alcohol use is associated with smaller hippocampal volume. The hippocampus is a region of the brain that is primarily associated with memory and spatial navigation. However, they wanted to explore whether hippocampal deviations reflect a pre-existing liability toward problematic alcohol use, or whether problematic alcohol-use causes hippocampal deviations.
100 female twins participated
The research team did a twin-study looking at differences within twin pairs in levels of drinking. Their study included 100 female twins, from ages 11 to 24. Among other things they looked at how much the girls drank, and how often they drank. They assessed the girls hippocampal volume by doing MRI-scans. Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) is a medical imaging technique generating images of the organs in the body. The research team found that the twins who drank more alcohol had significantly smaller hippocampal volume than their co-twin. These findings let them to conclude that problematic alcohol-use causes hippocampal deviations.