EXETER, England — For all of the stigma surrounding drinking, throwing back a few cold ones could actually help improve certain aspects of your memory, a new study finds.
Researchers at the University of Exeter in the UK conducted two experiments, both of which involved 88 social drinkers (57 women to 31 men), aged 18 to 53.
In the first experiment, all participants were instructed to complete a word-learning task.
Following the task’s completion, participants were randomly split into one of two groups— one group was told to stay sober, and the other to drink to their heart’s content.
The same participants were brought in the following day for a similar task, and this led to the study’s surprising finding: those who drank alcohol the day prior performed better on the subsequent word-learning task than their peers.
In fact, the more that one drank, the more likely they were to perform well on the word-learning task.
“The causes of this effect are not fully understood,” acknowledges researcher Celia Morgan, a professor at the university, “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,” Morgan adds.
The researchers noted that while this finding had been displayed anecdotally in the past, it hadn’t been tested under laboratory conditions.
A second experiment involved similar protocol, although it swapped out words for images displayed on a screen. Similar results were found.
Clearly, a win for those who enjoy a nightcap or three.
The study’s findings were published in the journal Scientific Reports.
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