Effect of Alcohol on Encoding and Consolidation of Memory for Alcohol-Related Images

Jessica Weafer, David A. Gallo, Harriet de Wit

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

13 Scopus citations


Background: Drug and alcohol abusers develop strong memories for drug-related stimuli. Preclinical studies suggest that such memories are a result of drug actions on reward pathways, which facilitate learning about drug-related stimuli. However, few controlled studies have investigated how drugs affect memory for drug-related stimuli in humans. Methods: The current study examined the direct effect of alcohol on memory for images of alcohol-related or neutral beverages. Participants received alcohol (0.8 g/kg) either before viewing visual images (encoding condition; n = 20) or immediately after viewing them (consolidation condition; n = 20). A third group received placebo both before and after viewing the images (control condition; n = 19). Memory retrieval was tested exactly 48 hours later, in a drug-free state. Results: Alcohol impaired memory in the encoding condition and enhanced memory in the consolidation condition, but these effects did not differ for alcohol-related and neutral beverage stimuli. However, in the encoding condition, participants who experienced greater alcohol-induced stimulation exhibited better memory for alcohol-related, but not neutral beverage stimuli. Conclusions: These findings suggest that individual differences in sensitivity to the positive, rewarding effects of alcohol are associated with greater propensity to remember alcohol-related stimuli encountered while intoxicated. As such, stimulant responders may form stronger memory associations with alcohol-related stimuli, which might then influence their drinking behavior.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1540-1547
Number of pages8
JournalAlcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research
Issue number7
StatePublished - Jul 1 2016

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This research was supported by NIDA DA02812 (HdW) and DA031796 (HdW).

Publisher Copyright:
Copyright © 2016 by the Research Society on Alcoholism


  • Alcohol Stimuli
  • Consolidation
  • Encoding
  • Memory
  • Stimulation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine (miscellaneous)
  • Toxicology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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