Drink your sorrows away? Fat chance!

Research suggests drinking in moderation may increase the ability to remember, whilst "drinking to forget" may make things worse.

Studies at The University of Auckland have shown that moderate levels of alcohol consumption, equivalent to a glass or two of wine a day, can enhance memory. In contrast, high levels of alcohol decrease the ability of new brain cells to develop and mature, and cause an impairment of memory except at times of heightened emotion, when memory is increased. Results of the study are published in this week’s Journal of Neuroscience.

The study also identified the mechanism by which low dose alcohol improves memory. A very important brain receptor, called NMDA receptor, appears required for this process. When rats that did not produce sufficient NMDA receptors were given alcohol, memory improvements were not observed. On the other hand, rats with increased numbers of NMDA receptors mimicked effects of low dose alcohol.


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