Gordon Smith

Study: Drink more booze, remember things more better

Ice cold validation has been poured from the University of Exeter, who claim that those who drink have a greater ability to retain information. Could be trouble.

 

 

All those days you spent sipping nectar from a silver sack on your university’s lawn weren’t quite as detrimental to your degree as you might have thought.

In fact, a new study has shown that your alcoholic habits may have actually been the key to your academic success.

Of course, that‘s exactly why you’d been indulging anyway, isn’t it?

As it turns out, drinking after learning new information can help our brains absorb what we took in while sober. This flies in the judging face of traditional thought that alcohol causes problems in forming memories.

Participants in a study with the UK’s University of Exeter were given a word-learning task, in hopes of shedding light on the way alcohol affects memory, and how the brain stores information on the whole.

This research backs up previously conducted laboratory-based studies but was this time around was conducted with participants drinking in their own homes – their ‘natural setting’ for consumption.

Celia Morgan, a member of the research team, believes the research shows not only that those who drank alcohol performed better when repeating the word-learning task, but that the memory-boosting benefits were even stronger in those who drank more.

Which seems like the perfect reason to take advantage of the campus bar’s low priced, high-quality jugs, right?

Well, not quite.

It seems that our improved long-term memory consolidation abilities are a result of alcohol intake blocking our brain’s short-a term memory circuits.

This means that after a few drinks, you are no longer taking in any new information, with anything you learned earlier in the day having more chance to take hold.

For the purposes of the very scientific study, 88 social drinkers were tested on a word-learning task, then split into two groups at random.

 

The research shows not only that those who drank alcohol performed better when repeating the word-learning task, but that the memory-boosting benefits were even stronger in those who drank more.

 

One group was told to drink as much they wanted, with participants averaging out at four units, or the disappointingly low two glasses of wine.

The other group was told not remain sober at all costs.

The following day, the word-learning task was revisited.

Those who had been drinking fared better than their sober peers, remembering more of what they’d learned the day before.

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

In real world speak, this means that a night of drinking leaves the hippocampus with no information to encode, leaving it to keep itself busy with encoding older information instead.

The participants were also asked to complete the seemingly much simpler task of looking at images on a screen, once right after drinking or staying sober, and once the next day.

Those who were tasked with drinking performed the same on the image test in both sessions, suggesting that the super-powered strengths of alcohol are limited to information absorbed before cracking open any cold ones with any hypothetical boys.

 

In real world speak, this means that a night of drinking leaves the hippocampus with no information to encode, leaving it to keep itself busy with encoding older information instead.

 

To further douse your booze fueled flame, the researchers are also quick to remind us mere mortals that these findings should only be considered while remembering what we already know about alcohol: too much can have serious impacts on your long-term memory and health.

They also note that sleep may also have made some effect on solidifying memories overnight, something which serves as a great teaser for future studies.

That’s not to say this, undoubted fun to conduct, research is without significance.

As the researchers say, this study suggests that there may be some ‘subtle enhancing effects’ of alcohol on memory, rather than the otherwise negative effect

Gordon Smith

Journalist by day, cunning linguist by night. A passion for politics, hypnotically involved in human rights. An Australian born with a Japanese tongue, hoping to hold the big wigs in government to account.

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