Susan F. Tapert, acting chief of psychology at the VA San Diego Healthcare System and professor of psychiatry at the University of California, San Diego, and colleagues recruited 95 participants from San Diego-area public schools as part of ongoing longitudinal studies.
Forty binge drinkers -- 27 male, 13 female -- and 55 controls, all ages 16-19 completed neuropsychological testing, substance use interviews, and a spatial working memory task during functional magnetic resonance imaging.
"Our study found that female teenage heavy drinkers had less brain activation in several brain regions than female non-drinking teens when doing the same spatial task," Tapert says in a statement. "These differences in brain activity were linked to worse performance on other measures of attention and working memory ability. Male binge drinkers showed some but less abnormality as compared to male non-drinkers. This suggests that female teens may be particularly vulnerable to the negative effects of heavy alcohol use."
The findings were published online ahead of the October issue of Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research.