"This is further evidence of the deleterious effects of heavy drinking on the developing adolescent brain," Knight said. "There is a growing body of scientific evidence on alcohol-related neurotoxicity, as well as evidence that brain development continues well into the third decade of life," he said.
The findings also have important policy implications, Knight said.
"We strongly recommend not lowering the legal drinking age, as some well-intentioned -- but very misguided -- college presidents have recently advocated. We do not strive to deprive teens and young adults, only to protect their futures," he said.
For more on alcohol abuse, visit the U.S. National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism.
SOURCES: Susan F. Tapert, Ph.D., associate professor, psychiatry, University of California, San Diego, director of Substance Abuse/Mental Illness, VA San Diego Healthcare System; John R. Knight, M.D., associate professor, pediatrics, Harvard Medical School, director, Center for Adolescent Substance Abuse Research (CeASAR), Children's Hospital Boston; April 22, 2009, Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research, online