DOI: 10.1055/s-0043-118664
© Georg Thieme Verlag KG Stuttgart · New York

Drink and Think: Impact of Alcohol on Cognitive Functions and Dementia – Evidence of Dose-Related Effects

Stefan Gutwinski1, Stefanie Schreiter1, Josef Priller2, Jonathan Henssler1, Corinde E. Wiers3, Andreas Heinz1
  • 1Department of Psychiatry and Psychotherapy, Charité – Universitätsmedizin/Psychiatric Hospital of the Charité in the St. Hedwigs Hospital, Berlin, Germany
  • 2Department of Neuropsychiatry, Charité – Universitätsmedizin Berlin, DZNE and BIH, Berlin, Germany
  • 3National Institutes of Health, National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, Bethesda, MD, USA
Further Information

Publication History

received 03 July 2017
revised 03 July 2017

accepted 16 August 2017

Publication Date:
26 September 2017 (eFirst)


Regular alcohol consumption affects cognitive performance and the development of dementia. So far, findings are contradicting, which might be explained in part by dose-related effects. For this narrative review, we undertook a literature search for surveys investigating the impact of alcohol consumption on cognitive performance and the development of dementia. The majority of studies observed a U-shaped relationship between regular alcohol consumption and cognitive function: frequent heavy consumption of alcohol alters brain functions and decreases cognitive performance; regular light and moderate consumption may have protective impact. In many studies, total abstainers show an inferior cognitive performance than people with moderate or light consumption. Nevertheless, policy implications are difficult to draw for at least 2 reasons: (1) the possible risks associated with alcohol consumption and (2) the potential confounders in the group of non-consumers and heavy consumers.