Another promising option is called "recovery of function," an area of research that Mark S. Goldman, distinguished research professor of psychology at the University of South Florida, has studied. "Not only can we see spontaneous neuropsychological recovery in adults who have stopped drinking," said Goldman, "but there are ways of accelerating the improvement by helping the brain do the equivalent of 'weight lifting.'" Goldman explained that, after isolating the individuals' areas of brain deficits due to heavy drinking, they are given specific tasks that will 'work' that area, improving through repetition. "Recovery actually happens more when you give the brain things to do," he observed. "This counters the notion that when you're recovering from something, you want to just sit around and be passive and let recovery happen."
In reference to the adolescent drinking and brain deficit study, Goldman noted that several important research questions remain. "There's good reason to believe that because these are adolescents," said Goldman, "their brains are still developing and this will actually help with recovery. On the other hand, because their brains still haven't fully developed, they could be more vulnerable and show less recovery than slightly older adults might."
Another finding in Tapert and Brown's study had to do with a link between withdrawal experiences and adolescent neuropsychological functioning. For example, youth who had shakes, headaches or vomiting after a heavy-drinking episode were more likely to have poorer test results. The reasons for this association are unclear. Tapert and Brown are currently using brain scanning techniques to uncover exactly which brain regions may be most affected by heavy drinking during adolescence.