Alcohol consumption can cause changes in the architecture and operation of the growing brain, which continues to grow into an individual's mid 20s, and it may have repercussions reaching far beyond adolescence.
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In adolescence, brain growth is characterized by remarkable changes to the brain's structure, neuron connectivity ("electrical wiring"), and physiology. These changes in the brain alter everything from emerging sexuality to emotionality and judgment.
Not all parts of the juvenile brain mature at the same time, which may put a youth at a disadvantage in certain situations. The limbic regions of the brain mature earlier than the frontal lobes. The limbic areas manage emotions and are related to a juvenile's reduced 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 lead to careless choices or actions and a neglect for consequences.
Ways Alcohol Disturbs the Human Brain
Alcohol affects a juvenile's brain development in many ways. The repercussions of minor alcohol consumption on specific brain activities are detailed below.
Alcohol is a central nervous system sedative drug. Alcohol can seem to be a stimulant because, at the start, it depresses the portion of the human brain that regulates inhibitions.
CEREBRAL CORTEX-- Alcohol reduces the cortex as it works with details 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 a signal to that part of the body. Alcohol hinders the central nervous system, making the individual think, communicate, and move slower.
FRONTAL LOBES -- The brain's frontal lobes are important for planning, forming ideas, making decisions, and employing self-discipline.
When alcohol impacts the frontal lobes of the brain, an individual may find it hard to manage his/her feelings and impulses. The individual may act without thinking or may even get violent. Consuming alcohol over an extended period of time can damage the frontal lobes forever.
HIPPOCAMPUS-- The hippocampus is the part of the human brain in which memories are generated.
Once alcohol gets to the hippocampus, an individual might have difficulty remembering something she or he just learned, such as a person's name or a telephone number. This can happen after just one or two alcoholic beverages.
Drinking a lot of alcohol rapidly can trigger a blackout-- not having the ability to recall whole happenings, such as what exactly she or he did last night.
If alcohol harms the hippocampus, an individual might find it difficult to learn and to hold on to information.
CEREBELLUM-- The cerebellum is very important for coordination, thoughts, and attention. Once alcohol enters the cerebellum, a person may have trouble with these skills. After consuming alcohol, a person's hands may be so unsteady that they cannot touch or take hold of things normally, and they might fail to keep their equilibrium and tumble.
HYPOTHALAMUS-- The hypothalamus is a small part of the brain that does a remarkable number of the body's housekeeping tasks. Alcohol upsets the operation 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 chills the body. Consuming a lot of alcohol outdoors in cold weather conditions can cause a person's physical body temperature to drop below normal.
An individual might have trouble with these abilities once alcohol goes into the cerebellum. After consuming alcohol, an individual's hands may be so shaky that they cannot touch or grab things properly, and they might lose their balance and fall.
After a person alcoholic beverages alcohol, blood pressure, appetite, thirst, and the desire to urinate increase while physical body temperature levels and heart rate decline.
Alcohol actually cools down the body. Drinking a lot of alcohol outdoors in cold weather conditions can trigger a person's physical body temperature level to fall below normal.