A new study conducted by the University of Exeter, U.K., states that consuming alcohol improves memory for information that is learned before starting the drinking episode. This study, published on 24th July 2017, in the Nature journal Scientific Reports, enrolled 88 social drinkers – 57 females and 31 males – who were in the age range of 18 – 53 years.
The participants, after completing a word learning task, were randomly classified into two groups and were asked either to drink alcohol as much as they liked, or completely avoid drinking it. For those who drank alcohol, an average of 4 units was provided. The same task was repeated the next day and it was concluded that those who consumed alcohol could recall more of what they had learned prior to drinking.
The researchers of the study want to stress this finite positive effect of alcohol and say that this should be taken into consideration along with the deep-rooted negative effects of the excessive alcohol consumption on memory, as well as mental and physical health.
Professor Celia Morgan, from the University of Exeter, said: “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.”
Saying that the causes of this effect were not completely understood, she explains a leading theory that the alcohol, by blocking the brain from acquiring new information, keeps more resources on already existing knowledge to transforms the memory to long-term. The theory states that the hippocampus, which is the most important area of the brain that is related to memory, transfers from short into longer-term memory by switching to ‘consolidating’ memories.
Even though this effect had been shown under laboratory conditions previously, this study remains the first to test the same in a natural setting, where all the participants involved drank at their homes.
The researchers also conducted a second task in which the participants of the study were asked to recall images on a screen. This task also followed the same methods as the initial one which included two consecutive days of drinking. The results of this trial did not reveal any significant differences in memory performance after drinking alcohol.