Science

Apparently booze can improve your recent memory

As if any more excuse was needed.

Sometimes you might wake up after a big night of drinking with certain regrettable gaps in your memory.

But it’s not all bad: new research suggests that drinking alcohol can actually help you remember the things you learned before going to the pub.

In fact, those who drank more actually performed better during the University of Exeter’s study.

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Professor Celia Morgan of 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.

“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.”

The researchers surveyed 88 people – half who were sober, while the other half drank as much alcohol as they liked.

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All participants learned information in their own homes (away from the clinical environment of the lab) before half the group embarked on a night of drinking – consuming an average of four units of alcohol.

The next day both groups did the memory tasks again, and those who had been on the sauce the night before remembered more than their sober counterparts.

What sets this trial apart from similar experiments is the fact that the test was done in a naturalistic setting. People were drinking in their homes instead of the lab, which is probably much more relevant to most of us.

However, this is not to say that you should definitely go out drinking the night before an exam. The researchers stressed the fact that the positive effects are limited, and there are a wide range of negative effects associated with heavy drinking.

The paper is published in the journal Scientific Reports.

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