Working Memory in Aging Adults Becomes Increasingly Affected by Alcohol

As long as one can remember, it has been reinforced that excessive alcohol consumption is detrimental for human beings, and rightly so. It does affect not only the body but also the mind. Human memory and other cognitive activities are influenced by excessive alcohol abuse, much like all other parts of the human body. Over the years, multiple types of research have been conducted on this topic. All of these studies and researches have shown that certain factors trigger memory impairment such as how much a person drinks per day, what is the age of the person, how long they have been drinking, their gender and their genetic background, etc.

The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism recently supported a research done by Dr. Aaron M. White, an assistant research professor at the Department of Psychiatry at Duke University Medical Center, Durham. Mainly alcohol obstructs long-term memory. It meddles in with the previously established long-term memory and becomes a hindrance in storing any new information. And the impairment worsens with the magnitude of alcohol consumption.

A significant amount of alcohol consumption can cause a partial or complete blackout, which is a span of loss of memory of the events that happened while the person was drinking. Such patterns are more noticeable in social drinkers, especially college drinkers. The events that happen while they are drunk, and they forget range from conversations to sex. These alcohol-induced memory impairments are caused because of disturbances in brain part called hippocampus, which plays the most integral part in the new autobiographical memories formation.

Another research was conducted in University College London, which showed that middle-aged men who drink a lot are more likely to have memory loss. The researchers studied the drinking habits of 2,099 women and 5,054 men for three alternate times over a period of a decade. When all the participants reached 56 years of age, the first of the three tests were taken and then studied them over ten years.  The study showed that men who drank 2.5 drinks every day started showing signs of memory loss earlier than men who did not drink or were moderate drinkers. The researchers could not find a particular pattern of memory loss amongst women.

Both these researchers validate that alcohol consumption has a huge impact on memory. These researches were neither the first nor the last, but they show that although at first the signs of impact are subtle, they can change into bigger issues over time.

As is mentioned in the first research, alcohol affects the hippocampus, the part of the brain which is responsible for memory encoding. Simply because the hippocampus plays a more important role in the making of new declarative memory it is affected more than retrieval of procedural memory. Procedural memory has more to do with remembering how, whereas declarative memory deals with remembering what. So, it can be established that alcohol affects the encoding of episodic memory, which is a part of declarative memory that relates to a person’s personal experiences. And, a blackout is an example of that.

It is a no brainer that alcohol is highly harmful to a person’s physical health. And with this paper, it is clear that it is just as harmful to the brain, and specifically the memory. Keeping all these researches in mind, one must always avoid massive intake of alcohol for their sanity and physical health.

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