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Alcohol can improve memory claims study

Drinking alcohol could help boost memory recall of events and information learned before a period of drinking, researchers at the University of Exeter have claimed.

Researchers at the University of Exeter found that those who had drunk alcohol were able to recall more of the information learning before starting drinking than those who had abstained

As part of the study, 88 social drinkers were split into two groups at random and given a world-learning task. Each group was then asked to either drink as much as they liked (the average was four units), or not to drink at all. Participants were aged from 18-53, with 31 males and 57 females.

The next day, they were asked to carry out the same word-learning task again, with researchers finding that those who had drunk alcohol remembered more of what they had learned than those who had not drunk at all.

“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 Professor Celia Morgan, of the University of Exeter.

“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 effect noted by the researchers has been shown under laboratory conditions before, but this is the first study to test it in a natural setting, with people drinking in their homes.

The researchers did stress that this limited positive effect should be considered alongside the well-established negative effects of excessive alcohol on memory and mental and physical health.

The team’s research was published in the nature journal Scientific Reports, entitled: “Improved memory for information learnt before alcohol use in social drinkers tested in a naturalistic setting.”

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