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Can't remember university? Blame it on the alcohol

Hard-partying students are probably used to waking up with fuzzy recollections of the night before, but new research says binge drinking also damages long-term memory.

Researchers at Spain's Universidade de Santiago de Compostela looked at 122 students between the ages of 18 and 20, roughly half of whom drank alcohol in moderation with the other half composed of self-identified binge-drinkers.

In one test, the students were read a list of words and asked to recall as many as they could. In another, they were told two stories and asked to recount them in as much detail as possible. Binge drinkers performed more poorly on both tests.

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"Our main finding was a clear association between binge drinking and a lower ability to learn new verbal information in healthy college students, even after controlling for other possible confounding variables such as intellectual levels, history of neurological or psychophathological disorders, other drug use, or family history of alcoholism," lead researcher Dr. Maria Parada said in a statement.

The "clear association" between binge drinking and impaired memory is likely due to damage to the hippocampus, an area of the brain that plays a key role in memory formation and that is especially susceptible to alcohol's poisonous effects, the researchers write.

While many of the dangers of binge drinking are well known, researchers said people, especially students, need to be aware of the risks highlighted by the study, which was published in the journal Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research.

"Whereas most attention has focused on negative consequences such as traffic accidents, violence or public disorder, society and students themselves are unaware of the damaging effects binge drinking may have on the brain," Dr. Parada said.

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About the Author

Dave McGinn writes about fitness trends for the Life section and also reports for Globe Arts. Prior to joining the Globe, he was a freelance journalist, covering topics from trying to eat Michael Phelps' diet to why the Joker is the best villain in comics history. He's working on improving his 10k time. More

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