Dementia Care Site Map
Alcohol related dementia (Korsakoff's Syndrome)


Chronic alcoholism, particularly if associated with a diet deficient in thiamine (Vitamin B1), can lead to irreversible brain damage.


If the person stops drinking alcohol there may be some improvement in their condition.


Korsakoff's syndrome is characterised by severe memory loss.

Alcohol related dementia is, as the name suggests, a form of dementia related to the excessive drinking of alcohol. This affects memory, learning and other mental functions. Korsakoff's syndrome and Wernicke/Korsakoff syndrome are particular forms of alcohol related brain injury which may be related to alcohol related dementia.


What is the cause?

It is currently unclear as to whether alcohol has a direct toxic effect on the brain cells, or whether the damage is due to lack of thiamine, vitamin B1. Nutritional problems, which often accompany consistent or episodic heavy use of alcohol, are thought to be contributing factors. Key parts of the brain may suffer damage through vitamin deficiencies, particularly marked levels of thiamine deficiency and the direct effect that alcohol has on the absorption and use of thiamine.


What are the symptoms?

This can vary from person to person, but generally symptoms will include:

  • Impaired ability to learn things
  • Personality changes
  • Problems with memory
  • Difficulty with clear and logical thinking on tasks which require planning, organising, common sense judgement and social skills
  • Problems with balance
  • Decreased initiative and spontaneity.


For more information about Alcohol related dementia see Alzheimer's Australia helpsheets on Types of dementia.