Effects of Alcohol on Memory

Posted on May 20th, 2012

We’ve all done it, run into someone at the grocery store, carry on a full conversation, then walk away banging our head against the wall because we can’t for the life of us remember the person’s name.

A recent study, which is set to be published this summer, shows that alcohol consumption may even make this experience worse.

Alcohol is known to kill brain cells. Some studies suggest that hard-core drinking may even lead to permanent brain injury. It is no surprise then that alcoholics perform worse in face-name recognition tests than their non-drinking counterparts – even while sober.

One joint study conducted by Dr. Edith Sullivan of Stanford and partners from the University of Florida made its goal to understand the effects that alcohol has on the brain – especially as it relates to the day-to-day recognition of people we come across on a regular basis, say, at the supermarket.

Dr. Sullivan and her colleagues wanted to see the outcome that alcohol had on the process of recalling names of familiar faces. They chose 20 individuals for their study, 10 of whom were classified as alcoholics, the other 10 who were non-drinkers were selected to serve as the control group.

They discovered that, indeed, the group that drank on a regular basis had poorer associative memory skills than their peers.

While the study was small, researchers emphasize that the multi-faceted effects of alcohol on cognitive thought process should not be ignored. They point out that those suffering from alcoholism may have trouble at work when it comes to tackling new projects. And, their home life may suffer, too, because their lapse of recall may be misinterpreted by those they love as indifference and thoughtlessness.

Researchers also suspect that alcohol’s hazing effect on memory may impede recovery. By limiting a patient’s ability to fully recall how alcohol was damaging in particular situation, it makes it hard for them to learn from it.

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