Drinking alcohol improves memory, study claims

In certain situations

Rachel Hosie
Tuesday 25 July 2017 08:55

Many of us have woken up the morning after the night before with a fuzzy recollection of our alcohol-induced antics.

So it may surprise you to learn that drinking can actually help improve your memory.

According to a new study by the University of Exeter, people who drink alcohol after studying information are better at remembering what they’ve learnt.

The researchers asked 88 people to complete a word-learning task. The participants were then split in half, with one group being asked to drink as much alcohol as they wanted afterwards - the average was four units.

The other group were told not to drink at all.

The following day, all participants repeated the task, and those who’d drunk alcohol were found to perform better, remembering more of what they’d learned.

However the researchers stress that this small positive effect of drinking alcohol should not negate the well-established harmful consequences associated with alcohol, including negative effects on memory and mental and physical health.

But the - albeit small - study, appears to suggest that drinking more in certain situations can aid memory.

“Our research not only showed that those who drank alcohol did better when repeating the word-learning task, but that this effect was stronger among those who drank more,” said Professor Celia Morgan of the University of Exeter.

“The causes of this effect are not fully understood, but the leading explanation is that alcohol blocks the learning of new information and therefore the brain has more resources available to lay down other recently learned information into long-term memory.

“The theory is that the hippocampus - the brain area really important in memory - switches to ‘consolidating’ memories, transferring from short into longer-term memory.”

This study wasn’t the first of its kind, but previous research into the subject had only been carried out in scientific conditions. This was the first one where people drank in their own homes.

As well as the word-learning task, the participants - 31 of whom were male, 57 of whom were female, all were aged 18 to 53 - undertook a second task involving looking at images on a screen.

This task was carried out after the drinkers had drunk alcohol and then again the next day, but there was no significant difference in memory between those who’d drunk and those who hadn’t.

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