Memory Can Be Harmed By Even Moderate Alcohol Consumption

Recent studies out of Britain have indicated that a drink or two a day could increase your lifespan by as much as a year or two. This definitely goes against numerous studies that indicate regular alcohol consumption, even as little as one or two drinks, can have lasting effects on your brain function. If you wish to go along with the British study that’s your prerogative, but you must keep in mind that physical longevity does not equate to mental longevity. Your body may simply outlast your mind.

There are very few cognitive functions or behaviors that miss the effects of alcohol. Even after one or two drinks there are definite signs of loss of balance and coordination, lessened ability to make good decisions, and of course the memory impairment that could lead to a total loss of memory regarding anything that happened while the person was drunk (blackout). I recently saw this phrase that I believe is very appropriate – “If recreational drugs were tools, alcohol would be a sledgehammer.”

A recent Farmington Study by the Association of Alcohol Consumption on Brain Volume indicates that even a few drinks can reduce your total brain volume, and the more alcohol consumed the smaller the total brain volume.

Alcohol interferes with the hippocampus’ ability to form long-term memories in the C1 region — the area for explicit memories. The hippocampus does not work alone, however, in the formation of memories. The frontal lobe also processes short-term and long-term memories, and there is considerable evidence to suggest that chronic alcohol use damages the frontal lobes and leads to impaired performance that relies on frontal lobe functioning.   “Shrinkage” in brain volume, changes in gene expression, and disruptions in how performing certain tasks affects blood flow in the brain all have been observed in the frontal lobes of alcohol—dependent subjects. It is also observed that the ability for neurons to establish long-lasting responsiveness signals to other cells is severely disrupted.

The study includes observation of behavior, examination of brain tissue, examining neurons in cell cultures, and scanning the brain activity of both anesthetized and freely behaving animals.

Alcohol interferes with the brain’s ability to form long-term memories, although can leave previously established long-term memories intact, along with the ability to hold new information for brief periods. As the increase in consumption takes place, so does the decrease in ability to retain information, and can produce fragmented memory or blackouts.

Excessive drinking is especially damaging to those under 18 years of age, whose brains are still developing, as well as for the elderly, even those who had been able to control their consumption throughout their life but find it more difficult as they age. Binge drinking for teens is especially damaging.

In other words, when you read that moderate alcohol consumption could be good for you, take into consideration the other factors that are not included in those studies. While an occasional drink is not indicated in these studies, regular use of alcohol can lead to problems. What good is a longer life without a brain to go with it?

This is Ron White, memory keynote speaker.

Memory Training


Brain Connection — Moderate Drinking and Longevity

National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism – What Happened? Alcohol, Memory Blackouts, and the Brain, by Aaron M. White, Ph.D.:

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