London: Bad news for those who enjoy binge drinking! A new study has revealed that a big night out might lead to memory loss of people as young as 18 years.

Researchers at Universidade de Santiago de Compostela in Spain found that heavy drinking affects declarative memory, a form of long-term memory, with study participants showing a reduction in their ability to learn new information given to them verbally.

Heavy alcohol consumption, they believe, makes it more difficult to build new memories because the hippocampus, an area at the centre of the brain, which plays a key role in learning and memory, is very susceptible to its poisonous effects, a news daily reported.

For the study, the researchers examined 122 university students aged 18 to 20 years divided into two groups – those who engaged in binge drinking and those that abstained.

They were then subjected to a neuropsychological analysis which included recalling visual and verbal experiences.

The students who engaged in heavy drinking scored lower on a sliding scale in two tests designed to see how much knowledge they retained and recalled.

Dr Maria Parada, who led the study, said: "Our main finding was a clear association between binge drinking and a lower ability to learn new verbal information in healthy college students."

The link was stonger even after controlling for other possible confounding variables such as "intellectual levels, history of neurological or psychopathological disorders, other drug use, or family history of alcoholism", he said.

"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."

It is a particularly worrying finding as binge drinking is a growing problem among teenagers in Britain and other European countries, the researchers said.

In northern European countries, there is a tradition of a sporadic, drunkenness-orientated, drinking style, while countries on the Mediterranean coast, such as Spain, have traditionally been characterised by a more regular consumption of low doses of alcohol, they said.

"In recent years, the pattern of binge drinking among young people has become more widespread throughout Europe, hence the growing concern about this issue," said Dr Parada.

He said: "I think it´s important to examine alcohol´s effects on the hippocampus because in animal studies, particularly in rats and monkeys, this region appears sensitive to the neurotoxic effects of alcohol, and this structure plays a main role in memory and learning.

"In other words, binge drinking could affect memory of young adults, which might affect their day-to-day lives."

The new findings are published in Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research.

Agencies