Chances are, you’ve experienced the decidedly negative memory effects of having a few too many alcoholic drinks. You wake up and wait…what happened last night?
That haziness is common, whether you’re a regular drinker or just a casual imbiber. Still, new research from the University of Exeter has found the opposite—that some alcohol might actually improve long-term memory.
According to the study, released on July 24, drinking alcohol can improve memory for information learned before the drinking session began. So, no, you won’t necessarily remember information you learned or things that happen while imbibing, but you might have a sharper recall regarding events that occurred just before drinking.
The study had 88 participants, all of whom were social drinkers. The study subject pool was comprised of 31 males and 57 females, aged 18-53. They were split into two groups at random, told to drink as much as they liked and then asked to complete a word learning task. The next day, all of the groups did the same task again—and those who drank remembered more of what they’d learned while completing the task.
Professor Celia Morgan, one of the study’s authors, explained:
“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.”
A second task, which involved looking at images, did not yield similar results in regards to memory performance after drinking.
Despite the interesting results with the word task, the Exeter researchers stress that this new information should be considered alongside the well-established negative mental consequences of drinking. Hangovers are one thing, but other research shows that even moderate drinking can be detrimental to the brain.