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As teenagers mature into their senior year of high school, many parents begin to feel more comfortable about letting them drink alcohol. But new research from brain scientists and parenting experts suggests loosening the reins on drinking may not be a good idea in the long run. And, researchers say, parents' approach to addressing teen drinking does influence a teen's behavior.
Brain researchers are finding that alcohol has a particularly toxic effect on the brain cells of adolescents. That's because their brain cells are still growing, says Susan Tapert, a professor of psychiatry at the University of California, San Diego.
The regions of the brain important for judgment, critical thinking and memory do not fully mature until a person is in his or her mid-20s. Tapert found that alcohol can damage the normal growth and development of a teenager's brain cells in these regions.
"Adolescents who engage in binge drinking (that is, having five or more drinks on occasion for boys, or four or more drinks on occasion for females) tend to show some brain abnormalities in their brain's white matter. That's the fibers that connect different parts of our brains," she wrote in a recent study.
And if binge drinking continues, within two to three years, Tapert says, it can result in subtle declines in a teen's thinking and memory. She reports declines in attention and memory among the teens who had engaged in binge drinking.
"Teenagers who initiate heavy drinking actually go downhill relative to kids who ....
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