Heading straight to the pub after an important meeting, lesson or hardcore revision session sounds counter-productive if you’re supposed to be retaining the information you’ve just learned. Fun, but unwise, right?
Wrong. According to new research from the University of Exeter, getting a round in might actually be beneficial to memory.
Again, drinking helps you learn stuff.
The study went like this: 88 people who identified as social drinkers were given a word-learning task. They were then asked to split into two groups, both instructed to either get as boozy as they liked (the average was four units), or not drink at all.
The next day all participants were asked to perform the same task again, and the results clearly showed that those who drank alcohol remembered more of what they had learned.
“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,” said the university’s Professor Celia Morgan.
“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.”
So by sacrificing making new memories, you actually have a better chance of processing recent ones. And the more you drink, the stronger the effects.
It should definitely be pointed out – and was by the researchers – that this ‘limited positive effect’ needs to be considered alongside what we already know about alcohol; that excessive consumption is no friend to your memory, mental or physical health. Nor do we think they’re recommending bursting into an examination room when you’ve just hit the peak of the mother of all hangovers.
But next time a chorus of “pub?” rings out after a tediously long team brainstorm, follow the lead of students nationwide and march straight there.