Alcohol consumption can cause alterations in the architecture and operation of the growing brain, which continues to develop into an individual's mid 20s, and it may have consequences reaching far beyond adolescence.
In adolescence, brain development is identified by dramatic changes to the brain's architecture, neuron connectivity ("electrical wiring"), and physiology. These transformations in the brain alter everything from emerging sexuality to emotionality and cognitive ability.
Not all portions of the juvenile brain mature simultaneously, which might put an adolescent at a disadvantage in certain situations. For instance, the limbic areas of the brain mature quicker than the frontal lobes. The limbic regions regulate feelings and are connected with a juvenile's decreased sensitivity to risk. The frontal lobes are accountable for self-control, judgment, reasoning, analytic skills, and impulse control. Differences in maturation amongst parts of the brain can lead to impulsive decisions or actions and a disregard for consequences.
The way Alcohol Alters the Human Brain Alcohol affects a juvenile's brain development in numerous ways. The effects of minor alcohol consumption on specific brain activities are explained below. Alcohol is a central nervous system depressant. Alcohol can seem to be a stimulant because, initially, it depresses the portion of the human brain that controls inhibitions.
CEREBRAL CORTEX-- Alcohol impedes the cerebral cortex as it processes details from a person's senses.
CENTRAL NERVOUS SYSTEM-- When a person thinks about something he wants his body to do, the central nervous system-- the brain and the spine-- sends a signal to that part of the physical body. Alcohol hampers the central nervous system, making the individual think, converse, and move more slowly.
FRONTAL LOBES -- The human brain's frontal lobes are essential for organizing, forming ideas, decision making, and employing self-control.
A person might find it difficult to control his or her feelings and urges once alcohol impacts the frontal lobes of the brain. The individual might act without thinking or might even become violent. Consuming alcohol over a long period of time can injure the frontal lobes forever.
HIPPOCAMPUS-- The hippocampus is the part of the brain in which memories are generated. Once alcohol reaches the hippocampus, an individual may have trouble recalling something he or she just learned, like a person's name or a telephone number. This can occur after just a couple of alcoholic beverages. Drinking a lot of alcohol quickly can trigger a blackout-- not having the ability to recollect entire occurrences, like what exactly she or he did last night. If alcohol injures the hippocampus, a person might find it difficult to learn and to hold on to knowledge.
CEREBELLUM-- The cerebellum is necessary for coordination, to form thoughts, and awareness. When alcohol goes into the cerebellum, a person might have difficulty with these skills. After drinking alcohol, an individual's hands might be so unsteady that they can't touch or grab things normally, and they may lose their balance and fall.
HYPOTHALAMUS-- The hypothalamus is a small part of the brain that does a remarkable number of the body's housekeeping tasks. Alcohol upsets the work of the hypothalamus. After a person consumes alcohol, blood pressure, appetite, being thirsty, and the impulse to urinate increase while physical body temperature and heart rate decline.
Alcohol actually cools down the body. Drinking a lot of alcohol outdoors in cold weather can trigger an individual's body temperature to fall below normal.
A person may have trouble with these skills when alcohol goes into the cerebellum. After drinking alcohol, a person's hands may be so unsteady that they can't touch or get hold of things normally, and they may lose their equilibrium and tumble.
After an individual drinks alcohol, blood pressure, appetite, thirst, and the urge to urinate increase while body temperature levels and heart rate decline.
Alcohol in fact chills the physical body. Drinking a lot of alcohol outdoors in cold weather conditions can cause an individual's body temperature to fall below normal.