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Alcohol. 2016 Mar;51:79-87. doi: 10.1016/j.alcohol.2016.01.003. Epub 2016 Mar 1.

Executive performance and dysexecutive symptoms in binge drinking adolescents.

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Department of Didactics and School Organization, Faculty of Education, Complutense University of Madrid, Rector Royo Villanova, s/n, 28040 Madrid, Spain.
Department of Psychobiology, Faculty of Education, Complutense University of Madrid, c/ Rector Royo Villanova, s/n, 28040 Madrid, Spain. Electronic address:


Alcohol is probably the most common legal drug of abuse in Western countries. The prevalence of binge drinking (BD) pattern of alcohol consumption among adolescents is a worrisome phenomenon. Adolescents and university students who practice a BD pattern have difficulty performing tasks involving prefrontal cortex functions, such as working memory, planning, attention, and decision making. The aim of the present study was to investigate the association between BD and executive functioning in adolescents. Two hundred twenty-three high-school students between 12 and 18 years old (15.19 ± 2.13) participated in our study. They were assigned to one of three groups according to their pattern of alcohol consumption: BD (subjects who consumed alcohol intensively, n = 48), MAC (subjects who consumed alcohol moderately, n = 53), and CTR (non-drinking subjects, n = 122). The students were evaluated with two groups of testing tools: a set of performance neuropsychological tests and two questionnaires of executive functioning. The results showed that the students who drank alcohol exhibited a more pronounced dysexecutive symptomatology (disinhibition, executive dysfunction, intentionality, executive memory), but they obtained better results than controls on some of the neuropsychological tests such as Spatial Location, Five Digit Tests, or Stroop Test. According to the results, we can deduce that heavy alcohol drinking in adolescents brings a certain dysfunction of prefrontal circuits. This prefrontal dysfunction is not so clearly demonstrated in the neuropsychological tests used, but it was observed in the performance of daily activities. In the Discussion section we raise issues about sociodemographic features of the sample and ecological validity of the traditional neuropsychological tests. The neurotoxic effects of BD on prefrontal cortex can be less evident throughout adolescence, but if alcohol consumption persists, the executive dysfunction would be exacerbated.


Adolescence; Alcohol; Behavioral disinhibition; Binge drinking; Dysexecutive symptoms

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