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Binge drinking in young people: protocol for a systematic review of neuropsychological, neurophysiological and neuroimaging studies

30 Jul 2018


Binge drinking is the most common pattern of alcohol use among young people in Western countries. Adolescence and young adulthood is a vulnerable developmental period and binge drinking during this time has a higher potential for neurotoxicity and interference with ongoing neural and cognitive development. The purpose of this systematic review will be to assess and integrate evidence of the impact of binge drinking on cognition, brain structure and function in youth aged 10–24 years. Cross-sectional studies will synthesise the aberrations associated with binge drinking, while longitudinal studies will distinguish the cognitive and neural antecedents from the cognitive and neural effects that are a consequence of binge drinking.

Methods and analysis

A total of five peer-reviewed databases (PubMed, EMBASE, Medline, PsychINFO, ProQuest) will be systematically searched and the search period will include all studies published prior to 1 April 2018. The search terms will be a combination of MeSH keywords that are based on previous relevant reviews. Study selection will follow the Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic Reviews and Meta-Analyses guidelines and study quality will be assessed using The Grades of Recommendation, Assessment, Development and Evaluation approach. All studies will be screened against eligibility criteria designed to synthesise studies that examined a young binge drinking sample and used neuropsychological, neurophysiological or neuroimaging assessment techniques. Studies will be excluded if participants were significantly involved in other substances or if they had been clinically diagnosed with an alcohol use disorder, or any psychiatric, neurological or pharmacological condition. If available data permits, a meta-analysis will be conducted.

Ethics and dissemination

Formal ethics approval is not required as primary data will not be collected. The results will be disseminated through a peer-reviewed publication, conference presentations and social media.

Trial registration number

International Prospective Register for Systematic Reviews (PROSPERO) number: CRD42018086856.

Click here to view the full article which appeared in BMJ Open