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Psychol Addict Behav. 2009 Dec;23(4):715-22. doi: 10.1037/a0016516.

Initiating moderate to heavy alcohol use predicts changes in neuropsychological functioning for adolescent girls and boys.

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San Diego State University/University of San Diego Joint Doctoral Program in Clinical Psychology and VA San Diego Healthcare System, San Diego, California, USA.

Erratum in

  • Psychol Addict Behav. 2010 Mar;24(1):118.


This study prospectively examines the influence of alcohol on neuropsychological functioning in boys and girls characterized prior to initiating drinking (N = 76, ages 12-14). Adolescents who transitioned into heavy (n = 25; 11 girls, 14 boys) or moderate (n = 11; 2 girls, 9 boys) drinking were compared with matched controls who remained nonusers throughout the approximately 3-year follow-up period (N = 40; 16 girls, 24 boys). For girls, more past year drinking days predicted a greater reduction in visuospatial task performance from baseline to follow-up, above and beyond performance on equivalent measures at baseline (R2Delta = 10%, p < .05), particularly on tests of visuospatial memory (R2Delta = 8%, p < .05). For boys, a tendency was seen for more past year hangover symptoms to predict worsened sustained attention (R2Delta = 7%, p < .05). These preliminary longitudinal findings suggest that initiating moderately heavy alcohol use and incurring hangover during adolescence may adversely influence neurocognitive functioning. Neurocognitive deficits linked to heavy drinking during this critical developmental period may lead to direct and indirect changes in neuromaturational course, with effects that would extend into adulthood.

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