Review. Cognitive and emotional consequences of binge drinking: role of amygdala and prefrontal cortex

Philos Trans R Soc Lond B Biol Sci. 2008 Oct 12;363(1507):3169-79. doi: 10.1098/rstb.2008.0097.


Binge drinking is an increasingly recognized problem within the UK. We have studied the relationship of binge drinking to cognitive and emotional functioning in young adults, and have found evidence for increased impulsivity, impairments in spatial working memory and impaired emotional learning. Since in human studies it is difficult to understand whether such behavioural changes pre-date or are a consequence of binge drinking, we have also studied parallel behaviours in a rodent model, in which rats are exposed to intermittent episodes of alcohol consumption and withdrawal. In this model, and in parallel with our findings in human binge drinkers, and alcoholic patients who have undergone multiple episodes of detoxification, we have found evidence for impairments in aversive conditioning as well as increased impulsivity. These behavioural changes are accompanied by facilitated excitatory neurotransmission and reduced plasticity (long-term potentiation (LTP)) in amygdala and hippocampus. The impaired LTP is accompanied by both impaired associative learning and inappropriate generalization of previously learned associations to irrelevant stimuli. We propose that repeated episodes of withdrawal from alcohol induce aberrant neuronal plasticity that results in altered cognitive and emotional competences.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Alcoholism / physiopathology*
  • Alcoholism / psychology*
  • Amygdala / physiology*
  • Cognition / physiology*
  • Emotions / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Impulsive Behavior / physiopathology
  • Long-Term Potentiation / physiology
  • Memory / physiology
  • Neuronal Plasticity / physiology*
  • Prefrontal Cortex / physiology*