Study finds drinking could help improve memory

MOSCOW — While many drink to forget their troubles, new evidence says your afternoon bev is actually helping you to better remember all that stuff that drove you to drink in the first place.

Researchers gave study participants, a group of 88 social drinkers, a word-learning task. One group was allowed to imbibe up to four drinks, while the other was told to go cold turkey.

The next day, participants were asked to complete the same task. Shockingly enough, those that got tipsy the day before were the ones that remembered more of the information.

“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,” Prof. Celia Morgan, the leading researcher, noted.

So how exactly does this phenomenon work?

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

While most research suggest alcohol blocks the formation of new memories, which in most cases is true, the authors of the new study say by drinking much smaller amounts, it has the opposite effect.

“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,” Morgan told the Medical Xpress.

Along with the word-learning task, the participants, all aged between 18 and 53, underwent a second task that involved looking at images on a screen. In this instance, the task was conducted right after the alcohol was consumed.

This time, there was no significant difference between those who ditched the drink and others who didn’t.

However, despite their positive findings, researchers at the University of Exeter say their study, published in Scientific Reports, should not overshadow the harmful consequences that come along with overindulging in alcohol.

Though not the first of its kind, this study was the first instance in which the experiment was conducted outside a laboratory setting.