Alcohol in small amounts may improve memory
People over 60 who drink alcohol in small amounts may be helping to boost their memory, according to a new study.
Scientists from the University of Texas Medical Branch (UTMB), The University of Kentucky, and the University of Maryland studied cognitive functioning in data from more than 660 patients. All patients did not have a history of alcohol abuse or dementia, and were studied by filling out surveys and undergoing an MRI and neurophysical assessment. The researchers also took into account their risk of Alzheimer's disease and the role it may play on cognitive function.
The study's findings, published in the American Journal of Alzheimer's Disease and Other Dementias, showed that light alcohol consumption enhanced "episodic memory," or memory recall. Researchers said one explanation for the findings could be that the adults who were able to consume alcohol in their older age were in good health and may have had better cognitive abilities and larger regional brain volumes, when compared with those who were unable to consume alcohol in older age due to health complications.
Researchers also found that when they factored in the volume of the hippocampus--the region of the brain that controls memory function--the connection between light alcohol consumption and memory function disappeared. Further research into hippocampal function then may be the key to developing new memory improvement techniques, researchers said.
Although experts said this study's findings are significant, the results were from patients who never had to reduce their alcohol consumption because of unhealthy circumstances or abuse. The researchers warned that long term abuse of alcohol may still harm the brain.