Alcohol can trigger changes in the structure and operation of the growing brain, which continues to develop into a person's mid 20s, and it might have repercussions reaching far beyond adolescence.
In adolescence, brain development is identified by remarkable changes to the brain's structure, neural connections ("circuitry"), and physiology. These transformations in the brain affect everything from developing sexuality to emotions and judgment.
Not all portions of the juvenile brain mature simultaneously, which may put a youth at a disadvantage in particular circumstances. For instance, the limbic regions of the brain mature quicker than the frontal lobes. The limbic areas control feelings and are connected with an adolescent's decreased level of sensitivity to risk. The frontal lobes are responsible for self-control, judgment, reasoning, problem-solving, and impulse control. Variations in maturation among parts of the brain can result in careless choices or actions and a disregard for consequences.
How Alcohol Alters the Brain Alcohol disturbs a juvenile's brain growth in several ways. The consequences of underage alcohol consumption on particular brain functions are explained below. Alcohol is a central nervous system sedative. Alcohol can appear to be a stimulant because, at the start, it depresses the part of the brain that governs inhibitions.
CORTEX-- Alcohol hinders the cerebral cortex as it processes information from an individual's senses.
CENTRAL NERVOUS SYSTEM-- When a person thinks of something he desires his body to do, the central nervous system-- the brain and the spinal cord-- sends out a signal to that part of the physical body. Alcohol hinders the central nervous system, making the individual think, speak, and move more slowly.
FRONTAL LOBES -- The brain's frontal lobes are very important for planning, forming ideas, decision making, and using self-control.
Once alcohol impacts the frontal lobes of the human brain, a person might find it difficult to manage his or her emotions and urges. The person may act without thinking or may even get violent. Drinking alcohol over an extended period of time can damage the frontal lobes permanently.
HIPPOCAMPUS-- The hippocampus is the part of the brain in which memories are generated. When alcohol gets to the hippocampus, an individual may have trouble recalling a thing she or he just learned, like a name or a phone number. This can happen after just one or two drinks. Drinking a lot of alcohol quickly can cause a blackout-- not being able to recall entire incidents, such as what exactly she or he did the night before. If alcohol harms the hippocampus, an individual might find it difficult to learn and to hold on to information.
CEREBELLUM-- The cerebellum is important for coordination, ideas, and focus. An individual may have trouble with these skills when alcohol enters the cerebellum. After consuming alcohol, an individual's hands may be so tremulous that they cannot touch or grab things normally, and they might fail to keep their balance and fall.
HYPOTHALAMUS-- The hypothalamus is a small part of the brain that does an incredible variety of the body's housekeeping chores. Alcohol upsets the operation of the hypothalamus. After a person drinks alcohol, blood pressure, appetite, being thirsty, and the impulse to urinate intensify while body temperature and heart rate decline.
Alcohol in fact cools down the body. Consuming a lot of alcohol outdoors in cold weather conditions can trigger a person's physical body temperature level to fall below normal.
A person might have trouble with these skills when alcohol goes into the cerebellum. After drinking alcohol, a person's hands might be so unsteady that they cannot touch or take hold of things normally, and they might lose their balance and tumble.
After an individual drinks alcohol, blood pressure, hunger, being thirsty, and the urge to urinate increase while physical body temperature levels and heart rate decrease.
Alcohol actually cools down the physical body. Consuming a lot of alcohol outdoors in cold weather can cause a person's body temperature level to drop below normal.