A night of slamming beers followed by tequila shots isn't as good of an idea as it seems at the time. Aside from a pounding headache the next morning and several trips to the toilet, binge drinking brings a lot of other, more serious consequences. A review of studies on the behavior found that the brains of young binge drinkers were thinner in areas associated with important processes like memory, attention and awareness.

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"We looked at six areas to determine the deleterious impact of heavy drinking on brain response, namely: response inhibition, working memory, verbal learning and memory, decision making and reward processing, alcohol cue reactivity, and socio-cognitive/socio-emotional processing," explained Assistant Professor Anita Cservenka of Oregon State University, in a statement.

Overall, Cservenka established that adolescents who binge drink experience changes in the brain that could make it more difficult to pay attention in class, learn new words, or remember information for a big test.

One study included in the review found that an area of the brain involved with executive functions (they help us plan parties and complete to-do lists) and decision making was thinner than expected and linked back to the start of the behavior.

Another study with twin subjects aimed to determine whether genetics played a role in the brain changes. Researchers found that two regions could be attributed to binge drinking: the ventral diencephalon (which helps process sensory information and regulates hormones), and middle temporal gyrus (which assists with cognitive processing). However, a thinner right amygdala (an area that regulates emotions) and increased volume in the left cerebellum (vital for muscle movement) were more likely to change because of genetic vulnerabilities that were triggered by heavy alcohol consumption.

It’s not always obvious, but many common signs of drunkenness -- difficulty walking, slurred speech, beer goggles -- are traced back to brain functions. While these side effects can usually be slept off, those who binge drink over long periods of time could have brain impairments later in life. Researchers are still uncovering all the ways alcohol affects the brain, and there are many risk factors of damage including frequency, how long someone has been drinking, gender, education, family history and genetics.

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Teens may be more likely to binge drink as they have a tendency to experiment more than adults, and this could have lasting, irreversible consequences on their brains. Dr. Susan Tapert, professor of psychiatry at the University of California San Diego, found that the while binge drinking isn’t exactly great for either gender, alcohol impacts boys differently than girls.

"For girls who had been engaging in heavy drinking during adolescence, it looks like they're performing more poorly on tests of spatial functioning, which links to mathematics, engineering kinds of functions," Tapert told NPR.

Researchers still don’t know if the effects are reversible, but there is some good news. Alcoholics experiencing cognitive impairment may be able to regain some function, provided they give up drinking for good.

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