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Korsakoff syndrome results from damage of the memory related brain areas (Dudgale, 2010). Therefore Wernicke’s encephalopathy can be called the acute phase and Korsakoff syndrome the chronic phase.
Vitamin B1 is responsible for producing energy for the brain by metabolizing glucose. An impairment of this function due to any reason such as thiamine deficiency leads to decreased oxygen supply to the brain especially the thalamus and mammillary bodies and hence causes the brain damage. Mammillary bodies are part of the hypothalamus. There are neuronal connections between the hippocampus and the mammillary bodies. Then the neuronal connections extend from the mammillary bodies to the thalamus and then to the cortex of the brain. Memories are formed in the hippocampus and then stored in the cortex through this route. This is how damage to these areas of the brain in Wernicke Korsakoff syndrome leads to memory loss particularly anterograde amnesia. This means that memories of the distant past are remembered and available, while new memories cannot be formed, thereby leading to immediate forgetting of the recent events. The patient remembers events of the past before the illness but not after he started suffering from Wernicke Korsakoff syndrome (Barry, 2006).
Without treatment Wernicke’s Korsakoff syndrome keeps on getting worse and can be life threatening. Its treatment is symptomatic and thus involves controlling the symptoms. In addition thymine is also given. Alcohol consumption maybe stopped. In addition to this drugs like donepezil and rivastigmine are also prescribed. These drugs are used in Alzheimer’s disease, but have been found to work effectively in Wernicke Korsakoff syndrome patients too. Antidepressants which increase levels of serotonin in the brain have been found to be very useful too.
In order to prevent Wernicke Korsakoff syndrome, a person should control his drinking problem if he is a heavy drinker. He can