The existence of synergistic memory impairment is prevalent in individuals with alcoholism and co-occurring HIV infection.

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According to new findings reported online in Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research, the combination of heavy drinking and HIV infection causes a much greater loss of certain types of memory than either condition would cause alone. Not working memory, but episodic memory, showed significant impairments in patients with both HIV and alcoholism, as compared to patients without HIV and patients infected with HIV who were non-alcoholics, according to Edith V. Sullivan, PhD, of Stanford University, and colleagues. The researchers examined episodic memory, which was defined as the ability to remember information for more than 30 seconds after receiving it, after one year and than at baseline. As working memory seemed to be relatively unaffected, the researchers theorized that the issue may be with the initial process of storing information rather than retrieving it. According to the researchers, “episodic memory defects affected individuals at risk for difficulties in maintaining medication regimes, following through on work and family responsibilities, and effectively using information available to them.” Click here to read an article from ScienceDaily that discusses this study more.

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