(ANSA) - Rome, June 16 - Roughly 10% of Italians under age 25 have binged on alcohol at least once over the past year and this could seriously damage their brain development. The summer season sees many more adolescents drinking than the rest of the year, with all the risks this entails. "Some 20% of those between age 11 and 17 (ISTAT 2017 data) have drunk at least one alcoholic drink in the past year, down from a decade ago. However, ever more young people are engaging in drinking between meals or binge drinking: 3% of 11 to 17-year-old have done this in the past year and 17% of those between age 18 and 24," Michele Contel, head of the Osservatorio Permanente sui Giovani e l'Alcool, said, adding that "drinking in large quantity before age 18 can severely damage the central nervous system, altering the gratification system and leading to irrational behavior". The latest of several studies on the subject has been published in the 'Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research' journal. The researchers, from the Research Society on Alcoholism, in Texas, conducted "two parallel tests in adult male mice following their exposure to alcohol vapors during adolescence (4-6 weeks old) or adulthood (8-10 weeks old)." They found that "chronic exposure to alcohol vapors during adolescence produced significant, persistent, and strong regional-specific alterations in neuronal dendritic spine density in IL and BLA neurons, accompanied by a limited set of behavioral alterations. Comparable effects were not seen in the mice exposed to alcohol only during adulthood."