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.