Human brain labeled parts

Gallery of human brain model

Below is an image of the human brain. Click each label to read a description of the role that part of the brain plays, and the ways in which alcohol affects its function.

Ventral striatum and prefrontal cortex: These parts have connections that make up the brain’s reward system and regulate impulsive behavior. Drinking too much alcohol can affect those connections, which are not finished developing yet. As a result, teens may do impulsive things that they probably would not do under normal circumstances.

Frontal lobe: This section controls judgment, behavior, and emotion. Alcohol may affect emotions, leading to crying, fighting, or a desire to be close to another person.

Cerebellum: This part works with the primary motor cortex to control movement, balance, and complex motor functions. Drinking too much alcohol can decrease motor function and slow reaction time. For example, when a person is drunk, he or she may not be able to stand or walk a straight line.

Reticular activating system: This controls sleeping and waking. Drinking too much alcohol can depress these systems, causing a person to pass out.

Medulla: This controls heartbeat, breathing, and other functions. During heavy drinking, these may slow or stop working altogether, endangering an individual’s life.

Hippocampus: This is the part of the brain that stores memory. It is still maturing during adolescence. Even a small amount of alcohol can make teens forget what they did or learned while they were drinking.

Blood vessels: Blood vessels in the brain can swell from drinking. This can cause pressure, leading to severe headaches.

Neurons: Neurons are nerve cells. The connections between neurons are called synapses. Alcohol can disrupt (synaptic) communication between neurons, reducing motor function, reaction time, and the ability to remember things that happened while drinking.

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