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Alcohol affects memory and treatment

According to a recent study, alcoholism can disrupt memory functioning well before incurring the profound amnesia or Korsakoff’s syndrome.

“Chronic alcohol consumption mainly affects episodic memory and working memory,” says Edith V. Sullivan, of Stanford University School of Medicine.

Episodic memory is impaired in some alcoholics, who have difficulties in remembering a grocery list, a route to a new restaurant, or new face-name associations as encountered in a  new job.  Conversely, alcoholics may have deficits of working memory resulting in difficulties like holding a  phone number in mind while dialing it.

” Impaired episodic memory in alcoholics may  hamper obtaining full benefits from rehabilitation efforts,” says Sullivan, because it may affect self-awareness and the anticipation and recognition of potentially risky situations.

Source: Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research, July 2012

Korsakoff’s syndrome (also called Korsakoff’s dementia, Korsakoff’s psychosis, or amnesic-confabulatory syndrome) is a neurological disorder caused by a lack of thiamine (vitamin B1) in the brain. Its onset is linked to chronic alcohol abuse and/or severe malnutrition. The syndrome is named after Sergei Korsakoff, a Russian neuropsychiatrist who described it during the late 19th century.
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