The study undertaken by Dr Maggie Kalev and Professor Matthew at Auckland University found that moderate levels of alcohol consumption, equal to one or two glasses of wine a day, could improve memory.
However, high levels of alcohol adversely affected the brain cells' ability to develop and mature.
"Low levels of alcohol promoted neutral memories, such as remembering objects," Bang Showbiz quoted Dr Kalev, as saying.
"However, contrary to popular belief, we also found that excessive levels of alcohol enhanced memories of highly emotional stimuli, meaning the concept of `drinking to forget' is unlikely to be true."
"Our work suggests that heavy drinking actually reinforces negative memories."
The study also identified the low intake alcohol improved memory. Dr Kalev said a "very important" brain receptor, called an NMDA receptor, played a vital role in the process.
Experiments done on rats revealed that if there were inadequate NMDA receptors, their memory did not improve when given low alcohol doses. But rats that showed NMDA receptors hadmemory improvement when given low doses of alcohol.
"Pathways by which memory is laid down are unclear, but NMDA receptor is critical in this process," Dr Kalev said. "Building on this knowledge may help in the treatment of memory disorders, such as Alzheimer's disease and other dementias," Dr Kalev added.
The results of the study are published in this week's Journal of Neuroscience.