which part(s) of the brain, when impaired by alcohol, play an important role in memory

a. Nucleus accumbens
b. Hypothalamus
c. Hippocampus
d. All of the above

The correct answer is hippocampus.

How does alcohol affect the brain memory?

1. Types Of Memory

First, let’s take a look at the different types.Long-term Memory (LTM) is what most are familiar with in everyday usage. It is purposed for the storage of information over extended periods of time. LTM allows us to remember our best friend’s name, where our house is, and other important information. Although we often forget information, LTM has no limit.

Short-term Memory (STM) can be conceptualized as a bulletin board of information. STM serves as a temporary holding place for information recall. STM generally holds about seven items at the same time. STM is limited, but these memories can become LTM through processes of rehearsal and meaningful association.

2. Amount of Alcohol and Effect on Memory

As more drinks are consumed its effects compound. Brain impairments can be seen even upon just a few alcoholic beverages consumed. If enough alcoholic beverages are consumed then blackouts are often experienced, intervals of times where the intoxicated person cannot recall key information from events.Consuming alcoholic beverages interferes with the ability to form LTM’s. Binge drinking, classified as consuming five or more drinks in two hours for men and four or more drinks in two hours for women, as defined by the CDC. Binge drinking is especially common amongst those aged 18-34, but those aged 35 or older have moderately high levels of binge drinkers. Drinking at higher levels can result in injuries due to impaired judgment, health problems, birth defects in pregnant women, and impaired hippocampus function.

Drinking with high frequency also has a major negative impact on recall and health. According to the NIAAA, those who binge drink one day a month have about 20% chance of a disorder related to drinking. Those who drink once a week have a 33% of a disorder, and for those who drink heavily twice a week, the percentage jumps to 50%.

effects of alcohol on the brain

3. Why Does Alcohol Causes Memory Loss?

More than 30 years ago researchers speculated that consuming alcoholic beverages disrupts the ability to recall by harming the hippocampus, the limbic portion responsible for recall, emotions, and motivation. This speculation was based on the observation that damage caused by consuming alcoholic beverages resembled those to damage caused by hippocampal damage. Specifically, both drinking-related damage and hippocampal damage affects the ability to form new long term information but does not affect the short term side as much.

In recent studies, researchers found that drinking-related damage specifically impacts the CA1 region of the hippocampus. CA1 pyramid cells are critically important to the formation of facts and events. The research was tested on awake, freely behaving rats. The rats were tested for hippocampal activity using tiny wires implanted in their brains. The baseline showed activity in the CA1 region while foraging for food. After they were injected with alcohol, the region showed very little activity. About seven hours after the injection the rats showed normal levels of activity.

The researchers used various amounts in the injection, ranging from 0.5 g/kg to 1.5 g/kg. They found that the dose affected the CA1 pyramid cell suppression. The 0.5 g/kg dose did not affect the CA1 pyramid cells much from baseline. However, the 1.0 g/kg and 1.5 g/kg doses severely impacted CA1 pyramid cell function.

4. Ways to Recover LTM

To improve hippocampus activity that has been impacted by drinking, the simplest solution is to reduce or completely stop drinking. Many mind exercises, such as sudoku and chess, and healthy lifestyle choices can also improve brain function. Organizational tools and activities may also help recall.

If you have severe recall issues consult your physician.

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