L'Ombre de l'Olivier

The Shadow of the Olive Tree

being the maunderings of an Englishman on the Côte d'Azur

03 October 2007 Blog Home : October 2007 : Permalink

Booze Good For Memory

This is one of those pieces of Scientific research which seems destined to seriously hack off a certain fraction of the population. According to some NZ researchers a couple of glasses of wine (or equivalent) per day helps the brain:

[A] new report suggests that low to moderate alcohol consumption may actually enhance memory. "There are human epidemiological data of others indicating that mild [to] moderate drinking may paradoxically improve cognition in people compared to abstention," says Maggie Kalev, a research fellow in molecular medicine and pathology at the University of Auckland in New Zealand and a co-author of an article in The Journal of Neuroscience describing results of a study she and other researchers performed on rats. "This is similar to a glass of wine protecting against heart disease, however the mechanism is different." [...]

According to Kalev, it is hard to relate the alcohol the rats consumed to human quantities, but "based on their blood alcohol levels, the 2.5 percent ethanol diet was equivalent to a level of consumption that does not exceed [the] legal driving limit. This may be approximately one to two drinks per day for some people or two to three for others, depending upon their size, metabolism or genetic background."

The rats stayed on these diets for eight weeks; behavioral testing to assess cognitive function began after four weeks. One test involved novel object recognition, where rats were placed in a cage with two small objects inside multiple times over a two-day period. Then, one object was swapped for a new toy and rats were scored based on how quickly they explored the unfamiliar piece. In a second paradigm, rats were trained to expect a shock when they crossed from a white compartment to a black one inside a cage; a day after training, the rats were put back in the cage to see if they remembered that the black side was dangerous.

Among the normal rats, the animals that consumed moderate amounts of alcohol fared better on both tests compared with the teetotalers. Rats on a heavy alcohol diet did not do well on object recognition (and, in fact, showed signs of neurotoxicity), but they performed better than their normal brethren on the emotional memory task.

Which means that, as the researchers point out, drinking as an attempt to forget may be counter productive. What it remoinded me of though was the "Buffalo theory" as expounded by Cliff from the Cheers sitcom.

So booze, in moderation, is good for the heart and the mind. And this is now scientifically proven. Just what we needed. Still it seems clear that the scientific community isn't willing to challenge the prohibitionists because the article ends:

"[This study] provides interesting evidence for a mechanism that may be operating at the NMDA receptor," he says, but quickly cautions: "It's better not to drink at all than to drink too much," as is also demonstrated by this study.