Alcohol consumption can trigger modifications in the structure and operation of the growing brain, which continues to develop into a person's mid 20s, and it may have repercussions reaching far beyond teenage years.
In adolescence, brain growth is characterized by dramatic changes to the brain's architecture, neural connections ("electrical wiring"), and physiology. These transformations in the brain affect everything from developing sexuality to emotionality and judgment.
Not all parts of the adolescent brain mature at the exact same time, which may put a juvenile at a disadvantage in particular situations. The limbic regions of the brain develop sooner than the frontal lobes.
How Alcohol Affects the Brain
Alcohol affects an adolescent's brain growth in several ways. The repercussions of juvenile alcohol consumption on specific brain activities are explained below.
Alcohol is a central nervous system sedative drug. Alcohol can seem to be a stimulant because, initially, it suppresses the part of the brain that controls inhibitions.
CORTEX-- Alcohol reduces the cerebral cortex as it processes details from a person's senses.
CENTRAL NERVOUS SYSTEM-- When an individual thinks about something he wants his body to do, the central nervous system-- the brain and the spinal cord-- sends a signal to that portion of the body. Alcohol hampers the central nervous system, making the person think, converse, and move slower.
FRONTAL LOBES -- The brain's frontal lobes are essential for advanced planning, creating ideas, making decisions, and employing self-control.
A person may find it difficult to manage his or her feelings and urges when alcohol impairs the frontal lobes of the brain. The individual might act without thinking or may even become violent. Consuming alcohol over a long period of time can damage the frontal lobes permanently.
HIPPOCAMPUS-- The hippocampus is the part of the brain where memories are generated.
When alcohol gets to the hippocampus, a person might have difficulty recalling something he or she just learned, such as a person's name or a phone number. This can take place after just one or two alcoholic beverages.
Drinking a great deal of alcohol quickly can trigger a blackout-- not being able to remember entire occurrences, such as what he or she did the night before.
A person might find it difficult to learn and to hold on to knowledge if alcohol damages the hippocampus.
CEREBELLUM-- The cerebellum is very important for coordination, to form thoughts, and awareness. Once alcohol gets in the cerebellum, a person may have trouble with these skills. After drinking alcohol, an individual's hands may be so shaky that they cannot touch or get hold of things normally, and they might fail to keep their equilibrium and tumble.
HYPOTHALAMUS-- The hypothalamus is a little part of the brain that does a remarkable variety of the physical body's housekeeping chores. Alcohol frustrates the work of the hypothalamus. After an individual consumes alcohol, blood pressure, hunger, thirst, and the urge to urinate intensify while physical body temperature level and heart rate decrease.
Alcohol in fact chills the body. Consuming a lot of alcohol outdoors in cold weather can cause an individual's physical body temperature to fall below normal.
A person may have difficulty with these skills once alcohol goes into the cerebellum. After drinking alcohol, a person's hands might be so shaky that they can't touch or take hold of things normally, and they might lose their equilibrium and fall.
After a person drinks alcohol, blood pressure, appetite, thirst, and the desire to urinate increase while body temperature and heart rate decrease.
Alcohol actually cools down the physical body. Drinking a lot of alcohol outdoors in cold weather conditions can trigger an individual's physical body temperature to fall below normal.
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