Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Science in Biomedical Sciences




Often overlooked and trivialized, Alcohol Use Disorder (AUD) affects 15 million Americans over the age of 18. As of 2015, it was reported that only 6.7% of these individuals received treatment necessary to recover. Perhaps even more alarming, the NIH reports alcohol to be the third leading preventable cause of death in the United States annually. As these numbers steadily increase, scientists have become more interested in alcohol addiction and reward pathways, memory deficiencies secondary to alcohol abuse, and the potential development of pathologies like Wernicke-Korsakoff Syndrome.

Previous studies have shown that excessive drinking damages nerve cells that ultimately affect the brain's cognitive functioning. The question the researchers are attempting to answer is at what age are men and women more susceptible to alcohol's damaging effects. Though there is significant understanding of addiction-reward pathways, there is less understanding of the neurological basis of memory loss during periods of binge drinking and severe memory deficiencies that occur during Wernicke-Korsakoff Syndrome. Only more recently have researchers begun using animal models to support their hypothesis that alcohol impairs memory formation by disrupting hippocampal activity. This capstone project is a literature review of different mechanisms of memory loss due to the indirect and direct effects of alcohol on the hippocampus and other brain structures. The research collected explores the neurological basis of memory loss during periods of binge drinking, as well as the effects of alcohol on brain development. Treatment options and psychosocial effects of alcohol addiction will be discussed.