Madrid/Palma.— Well, it's official: drinking really can make you stupid.
Noting the increasing trend among the young to engage in binge drinking, researchers in Spain say they've found a link between “a sporadic, drunkenness-oriented drinking style” and a decreased ability to learn new information presented verbally. “One of the factors that appear to be behind this pattern of consumption is the low perception of risk,“ said Maria Parada, a researcher at the Universidade de Santiago de Compostela and author of the study, which will be published in the August issue of Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research.

The brain
The brain's hippocampus, which plays a key role in learning and memory, is particularly sensitive to alcohol's neurotoxicity, say the researchers, who found the link while studying the association between binge drinking and declarative memory. In animal studies, the hippocampus has been shown to be vulnerable to the effects of alcohol, said Parada, leading researchers to ask whether binge drinking could affect the memory of young adults in a way that could affect their day-to-day lives.

Parada and her colleagues examined 122 Spanish university students aged 18 to 20, 62 of whom engaged in binge drinking and 60 who did not.
All were administered tests that measured their ability to learn from spoken instructions, as well as their verbal declarative memory and their visual declarative memory.

Binge drinking “Our main finding was a clear association between binge drinking and a lower ability to learn new verbal information in healthy college students, even after controlling for other possible confounding variables such as intellectual levels, history of neurological or psychopathological disorders, other drug use, or family history of alcoholism,“ said Parada.

The study found no differences between the effect of binge drinking on women and men.
Fortunately, public binge drinking now appears to be a thing of the past in Palma after the city council finally enforced tough laws outlawing the practice last week.

Many of those who took part in the weekly street parties along Palma's sea front were students, so perhaps, the council's done them a favour too.