According to a research study conducted by University of Kentucky’s Dr. David Fardo, and others, light to moderate alcohol consumption by those over the age of 60 can support better memory function. Dr. Fardo, associate professor in the department of biostatistics at the University of Kentucky College of Public Health and the Sanders-Brown Center on Aging, joined with researchers from University of Maryland, UK’s Department of Behavioral Science, and former UK PhD student and current postdoctoral fellow at the University of Texas Medical Branch, Dr. Brian Downer, on the study. The paper, “Effects of Alcohol Consumption on Cognition and Regional Brain Volumes Among Older Adults” was recently published in the American Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease & Other Dementias.
This research used data from more than 600 individuals in the Framingham Heart Study Offspring Cohort, who were given a series of clinical examinations including surveys of alcohol consumption and demographic information, made subject to brain MRIs, evaluated for Alzheimer’s disease risk factors, and given a battery of neuropsychological tests. In the study, Dr. Fardo and his colleagues learned that light to moderate alcohol consumption – defined in the project as 1-6 drinks per week (light) and seven-14 drinks per week (moderate) – may contribute to better episodic memory.
Researchers also found a link between moderate alcohol consumption in late life and a larger volume in the hippocampus, the region of the brain that is responsible for episodic memory, or the ability to recall memories or events. Findings from animal studies suggest that alcohol consumption, if done in moderation, may promote the generation of new nerve cells in the hippocampus. Further, exposure of the brain to light to moderate amounts of alcohol could increase the release of certain brain chemicals that are related to cognitive and information processing functions.
In addition to uncovering new information about the link between alcohol consumption and memory, the study also provided Dr. Fardo the opportunity to work with a student on the cusp of a promising scientific career in Dr. Downer. “It was a privilege working with Brian on this paper, as well as his dissertation research,” Dr. Fardo stated. “Brian will continue making significant contributions to science as he progresses in what is already proving to be a successful academic career.”