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New Research Suggests That Alcohol-Related Blackouts May Alter Brain Structure, Especially In Regions Associated With Learning And Memory

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After one too many glasses of wine during a dinner party – or some shots at your local bar – you may have woken up the next morning with no recollection of what happened the night before.

If so, you were the victim of an alcohol-related blackout, something that approximately 50% of those who consume alcohol have experienced.

But, in addition to some exhaustion and a horrible headache, new research suggests that “blacking out” can leave other lasting damage.

In a new study, researchers found that alcohol-related blackouts may be altering our brain’s structure, especially in regions associated with learning and memory.

“When someone has an alcohol-related blackout, alcohol is disrupting mechanisms in brain regions involved in forming new memories and recalling that information later. That is, alcohol is preventing the transfer of sensory information (i.e., vision, smell, sound) from short-term memory to long-term memory,” explained Sara Lorkiewicz, a neuropsychology postdoctoral research fellow at the Michael E. DeBakey VA Medical Center in Houston.

This leads to intoxicated individuals who are actively engaging with their surroundings – in other words, they aren’t passed out – but do not remember some or all the details of a drinking event since their brains didn’t process that information.

Alcohol-related blackouts usually happen when a person consumes a large quantity of alcohol quickly, causing a rapid increase in blood alcohol concentration.

According to Lorkiewicz, risky drinking behaviors – like binge drinking or drinking games, which are common among young drinkers – are the strongest predictors of blackouts. Other factors, like drinking on an empty stomach or using multiple substances, can also interfere with how the body processes alcohol and raise the risk of blackouts.

Now, not all alcohol consumers – even those who drink heavily – will experience alcohol-related blackouts. Plus, women generally have a higher risk than men.

New Africa – stock.adobe.com – illustrative purposes only

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