Posted on Jul 31, 2017, 7 a.m.
According to new research, drinking alcohol after studying new information improves memory recall of that information.
New research suggests consuming alcohol boosts memory for information obtained before the alcohol consumption occurred. This is the conclusion reached by researchers at the University of Exeter.
About the Study
The University of Exeter research team provided 88 social drinkers with a word-learning activity. The study was comprised of 57 females and 31 males between the ages of 18 and 53. The participants were randomly divided into two groups. They were directed to drink as much as they desired or completely avoid alcohol. On average, four units of alcohol were consumed. This task was repeated the next day. Those who consumed alcohol remembered more of what they learned during the prior day.
A Caveat Worth Considering
The research team stresses there is a limited positive effect of consuming alcohol. One should weigh this positive impact with the wide array of negative effects of consuming alcohol. Alcohol is known to have myriad negative effects on physical health, mental health and some aspects of memory.
A Closer Look at the Results
The research showed those who consumed alcohol performed better when repeating the word-learning activity. The effect was stronger in those who consumed more alcohol. The researchers are unsure as to why this effect occurs. Their best explanation is that alcohol cuts off the learning of new information so the brain has additional resources at its disposal to place other recently learned data into one's long-term memory. It is theorized the hippocampus portion of the brain that is vital for memory moves to consolidating memories, sending information from short-term memory to long-term memory.
It is also worth noting that participants engaged in another task in which they looked at images on a screen. They performed this task after consuming alcohol and once again a day later. The results did not show meaningful differences in memory performance following drinking.
Why This Study Is Important
Though the effect identified by the research team has been shown in lab conditions before, this is the first study to examine it within a natural setting of participants' homes. The details of the study were recently published in Scientific Reports.
Molly Carlyle, Nicolas Dumay, Karen Roberts, Amy McAndrew, Tobias Stevens, Will Lawn, Celia J. A. Morgan. Improved memory for information learnt before alcohol use in social drinkers tested in a naturalistic setting. Scientific Reports, 2017; 7 (1) DOI: 10.1038/s41598-017-06305-w