Alcohol Consumption Can Trigger Alterations In The Structure And Operation Of The Growing Brain

Alcohol consumption can trigger alterations in the architecture and function of the growing brain, which continues to mature into a person's mid 20s, and it might have repercussions reaching far beyond teenage years.

In adolescence, brain growth is defined by dramatic modifications to the brain's architecture, neuron connectivity ("electrical wiring"), and physiology. These transformations in the brain affect everything from emerging sexuality to emotionality and cognitive ability.

Not all parts of the adolescent brain mature at the same time, which may put a juvenile at a disadvantage in certain circumstances. The limbic regions of the brain develop sooner than the frontal lobes.

The way Alcohol Affects the Human Brain

Alcohol alters a juvenile's brain development in numerous ways. The results of underage drinking on specific brain functions are summarized below.

Alcohol is a central nervous system depressant. Alcohol can seem to be a stimulant because, before anything else, it suppresses the portion of the human brain that controls inhibitions.

CEREBRAL CORTEX-- Alcohol impedes the cerebral cortex as it processes information from a person's senses.

CENTRAL NERVOUS SYSTEM-- When a person thinks of something he wants his body to undertake, the central nervous system-- the brain and the spine-- sends out a signal to that portion of the physical body. Alcohol slows down the central nervous system, making the individual think, speak, and move less quickly.

FRONTAL LOBES -- The brain's frontal lobes are important for planning, forming concepts, decision making, and employing self-control.

Once alcohol impacts the frontal lobes of the brain, a person might find it difficult to control his/her emotions and urges. The person might act without thinking or may even become violent. Consuming alcohol over a long period of time can harm the frontal lobes permanently.

HIPPOCAMPUS-- The hippocampus is the portion of the brain in which memories are made.

Once alcohol reaches the hippocampus, an individual might have difficulty remembering something she or he just learned, such as a name or a phone number. This can occur after just one or two alcoholic beverages.

Drinking a great deal of alcohol quickly can cause a blackout-- not being able to recall whole happenings, like what exactly she or he did the night before.

If alcohol damages the hippocampus, an individual may find it difficult to learn and to hold on to knowledge.

CEREBELLUM-- The cerebellum is important for coordination, ideas, and focus. A person might have trouble with these abilities once alcohol gets in the cerebellum. After consuming alcohol, a person's hands may be so tremulous that they cannot touch or get hold of things normally, and they may fail to keep their equilibrium and tumble.

HYPOTHALAMUS-- The hypothalamus is a small part of the brain that does a remarkable number of the physical body's housekeeping tasks. Alcohol frustrates the work of the hypothalamus. After a person consumes alcohol, blood pressure, hunger, thirst, and the urge to urinate increase while body temperature and heart rate decrease.

Alcohol actually chills the body. Drinking a lot of alcohol outdoors in cold weather can cause a person's physical body temperature to fall below normal.

A person may have trouble with these skills when alcohol goes into the cerebellum. After consuming alcohol, an individual's hands might be so unsteady that they cannot touch or grab things properly, and they might lose their balance and tumble.


After a person alcoholic beverages alcohol, blood pressure, hunger, thirst, and the desire to urinate increase while physical body temperature levels and heart rate decrease.

Alcohol in fact chills the physical body. Consuming a lot of alcohol outdoors in cold weather can cause an individual's physical body temperature level to fall below normal.