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Binge drinking leads to neurocognitive deficits among college students

  • Alcoholics tend to have poorer neurocognitive functioning, including decision-making capabilities.
  • A new study has found that binge drinking, common among college students, is associated with impaired decision making.
  • The long-term neurocognitive effects of binge drinking during young adulthood are unclear.
Researchers know that alcoholics tend to have poorer neurocognitive functioning, including decision making, than non-alcoholics do. Less is known, however, about alcohols effects on decision-making capabilities among people who drink heavily but are not considered alcoholics. A new study has found that binge drinking can lead to poor decision making among college students, independent of impulsivity.

Results are published in the June issue of Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research.

"Alcoholics tend to exhibit poorer decision making such as preferring short-term rewards, when these are coupled to long-term losses, instead of choosing options which go together with long-term rewards," said Anna E. Goudriaan, a postdoctoral researcher at the University of Amsterdam and corresponding author for the study.

These choices tend to reflect more serious problems with executive functioning, added Jenny Larkins, a graduate student in clinical psychology at the University of Missouri. "Executive functioning involves skills such as planning for the future, abstract reasoning, inhibiting or delaying responses, initiating behavior, doing two things at once, and shifting between two activities in a flexible way," she said.

"There are not a lot of studies that focus on the effects of heavy alcohol use in people who are not addicted to alcohol," said Goudriaan. "However, it seemed logical that heavy alcohol would impact their decision making, and we targeted young adults since they tend to drink the most, and binge drink the most. We specifically targeted binge drinking, since some
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