Neuropsychology Review

, Volume 29, Issue 3, pp 357–385 | Cite as

Neurobiological and Cognitive Profile of Young Binge Drinkers: a Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis

  • Briana LeesEmail author
  • Louise Mewton
  • Lexine A. Stapinski
  • Lindsay M. Squeglia
  • Caroline D. Rae
  • Maree Teesson


This review provides the first systematic and quantitative synthesis of the literature examining the relationship between binge drinking, cognition, brain structure and function in youth aged 10 to 24 years. PubMed, EMBASE, Medline, PsychINFO and ProQuest were searched for neuroimaging, neurophysiological, and neuropsychological studies. A total of 58 studies (21 neuroimaging, 16 neurophysiological, 21 neuropsychological) met the eligibility criteria and were included in the review. Overall, abnormal or delayed development of key frontal executive-control regions may predispose youth to binge drink. These abnormalities appear to be further exacerbated by the uptake of binge drinking, in addition to alcohol-related neural aberrations in reward-seeking and incentive salience regions, indexed by cognitive deficits and maladaptive alcohol associations. A meta-analysis of neuropsychological correlates identified that binge drinking in youth was associated with a small overall neurocognitive deficit (g = −0.26) and specific deficits in decision-making (g = −1.70), and inhibition (g = −0.39). Using the Grades of Recommendation, Assessment, Development, and Evaluation (GRADE) Evidence Profile, the certainty in outcomes ranged from very low to low. Future prospective longitudinal studies should address concomitant factors, exposure thresholds, and age-related vulnerabilities of binge drinking, as well as the degree of recovery following discontinuation of use.


Alcohol Binge drinking Neurodevelopment Brain structure Brain function Cognition 



We thank the authors of selected included studies who were contacted to provide additional data for the meta-analysis.

Author Contributions

BL conceptualised the study and is the guarantor of the review; BL, LM, LS and MT developed the study design; BL and LM completed the screening process; BL conducted the narrative synthesis, meta-analysis and quality assessment; BL, LM, LS, LMS, CR and MT provided input on data interpretation; BL drafted the manuscript; LM, LS, LMS, CR and MT read, revised and approved the final version of the manuscript.


This work was supported by the National Health and Medical Research Council (GNT1169377); and the National Institute of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (K23 AA025399).

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Disclosure of Potential Conflicts of Interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Supplementary material

11065_2019_9411_MOESM1_ESM.docx (1.1 mb)
ESM 1 (DOCX 1.13 mb)


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© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.The Matilda Centre for Research in Mental Health and Substance UseUniversity of SydneySydneyAustralia
  2. 2.Centre for Healthy Brain AgeingUniversity of New South WalesSydneyAustralia
  3. 3.Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral SciencesMedical University of South CarolinaCharlestonUSA
  4. 4.Neuroscience Research AustraliaUniversity of New South WalesSydneyAustralia
  5. 5.School of Medical SciencesUniversity of New South WalesSydneyAustralia

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