Magazine article USA TODAY

Alcohol Impairs Youths' Mental Performance

Magazine article USA TODAY

Alcohol Impairs Youths' Mental Performance

Article excerpt

A growing body of evidence on alcohol's effects shows that just one drink can impair learning and memory in young people, but has much less memory effect on older adults, according to investigators from Duke University Medical Center, Durham, N.C., and the Durham VA Medical Center. Their research found the first scientific evidence that alcohol has a markedly different effect depending on the age of the drinker, supporting efforts to deter underage drinking.

"Historically, there has been no compelling reason to deter the youth of America from drinking, other than a moral or authoritarian message," notes neuropsychologist Scott Swartzwelder. Now, though, "we can back our message with scientific evidence showing that even occasional and moderate drinking could impair a young person's memory systems much more than an adult's." The memory loss persisted as long as the subject was under the influence of alcohol.

Younger people given alcohol had a harder time recognizing words from a list read to them 20 minutes earlier, compared with older subjects who received an equivalent dose. …

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