Because the digestion system of alcoholics is unable to absorb vitamin B-1 (thiamine), a syndrome known as Wernicke's Encephalopathy" may develop. This syndrome is characterized by impaired memory, confusion and lack of coordination. Further deficiencies of thiamine can lead to Korsakoff's syndrome. This disorder is characterized by amnesia, apathy and disorientation.
Korsakoff's syndrome is a complex syndrome defined by four possible conditions: 1.) gross defect in recent memory (associated with retrograde amnesia) although memory for remote events and didactically learned facts remains intact; 2.) a spatial or temporal disorientation; 3.) some degree of confabulation; 4.) false recognition. It occurs in a wide variety of toxic and infectious brain illnesses as well as in association with some nutritional disorders. The syndrome may be so severe as to produce moment-to-moment consciousness, with information only being retained for a few seconds and providing no continuity between one experience and the next. Learning may thus be severely limited or impossible. The condition can be transitory or chronic. Analogous phenomena may occur in the case of collective memory in social conditions of extreme deprivation or disorganization.