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J Addict Res Ther. 2013 Apr 26;Suppl 7. doi: 10.4172/2155-6105.S7-006.

Differential effects of binge drinking on learning and memory in emerging adults.

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Neurodevelopmental Laboratory on Addictions and Mental Health, McLean Imaging Center, McLean Hospital, Belmont, MA, USA ; Department of Psychiatry, Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA, USA.
Department of Psychology, Tulane University, New Orleans, LA.


Alterations in memory function due to alcohol exposure have been observed in both animal models and human populations. The human literature on neurocognitive consequences of binge alcohol use in emerging adults has not systematically investigated its potential negative impacts on visuospatial memory. For instance, these impacts have not yet been assessed using a human analogue of the Morris Water Maze Task (WMT), a key memory measure in the animal literature. Accordingly, this study compared performance between emerging adult binge drinkers (BD, n=22) and age- and sex-matched light drinkers (LD, n=29) using the Morris WMT, as well as verbal memory using the California Verbal Learning Test (CVLT). Emerging adult BD demonstrated worse performance on verbal learning and memory relative to LD. However, no significant group differences were observed on spatial learning and memory. Furthermore, no sex differences or interactions with drinking status were observed on either memory domain. These data suggest that in emerging adults who are at a heightened risk for alcohol abuse disorders, but who do not yet meet diagnostic criteria, verbal learning is uniquely impacted by the neurotoxic effects of binge drinking, whereas spatial learning is relatively spared between bouts of intoxication.


CVLT; WMT; binge drinking; emerging adulthood; spatial memory; verbal memory

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