We usually associate alcohol with memory loss, but a small new study suggests it may actually have the opposite effect. The research found that individuals were better able to remember information if they drank alcohol after learning. Of course, this does not offset the dangerous health consequences of abusing alcohol, but a celebratory drink after class may not be such a bad idea.  

The study found that individuals who drank alcohol after completing a word-learning task were able to remember more of what they learned than those who did not drink alcohol. The researchers suggest the reason for this may be related to alcohol's effect on the hippocampus, the area of the brain that consolidates new information into memories.

Read: Alcohol Linked To Better Memory, Bigger Hippocampus Among People Older Than 60

"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, Medical Xpress reported.  

For the small study, researchers from the University of Exeter in England had 88 social drinkers complete a word-learning task. Afterward, half of the group was asked to drink as much as they wanted, with the average amount being about four drinks, and the other half did not consume any alcohol. The next day, the volunteers were asked to complete the same task. Results revealed that those who drank alcohol the previous day remembered more of what they had learned.

Most research teaches that alcohol blocks the formation of new memories, and in most cases this is true. For example, when individuals “blackout” from drinking too much, it's not that they cannot remember what happened the night before, but rather that these memories never existed in the first place. Too much alcohol can prevent your brain from storing short-term memories as long-term memories, Today reported.

However, this research suggests that in much lower quantities, alcohol could actually enhance memory formation. Of course this is a very small study, but according to the researchers, this phenomenon has already been shown in a lab setting. This is the first study to repeat the results in a real-life setting.

"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,” explained Morgan, Medical Xpress reported. "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 research shows we still have a lot to learn about how alcohol affects our bodies and minds.  

Source: Carlyle M, Dumay N, Roberts K, et al. Improved memory for information learnt before alcohol use in social drinkers tested in a naturalistic setting. Scientific Reports . 2017

See Also:

Long-Term Effects Of Alcohol Impair Brain's Pathways That Underlie Impulse Control

Alcohol And Memory: Drinking To Forget May Strengthen Bad Memories, Hurt Sufferers Of PTSD