Page last updated:October 16, 2013

Hangover impairs brain function

New preliminary research conducted by researchers at the Keele University’s school of psychology reveals that a hangover could also impair the way your brain retains and processes information. Scientists have found that a hangover can cause the brain to function at a much lower rate of efficiency. Alcohol can actually slow the pace of communication between the neurotransmitters in the brain that are necessary for brain information translation to the rest of the body.

Dr Lauren Owen, Marie Curie postdoctoral research fellow at Keele University’s school of psychology said “Although numerous scientific papers cover the acute effects of alcohol consumption, researchers have largely neglected the issue of alcohol hangover”.

Owen said that tasks such as mental arithmetic that depend on ‘working memory’ seem to be the most affected. ‘Working Memory’ oversees the way a brain holds and processes information.

The preliminary results revealed that performance of a working memory decreased by 5-10%. Slower response time (similar to someone in their 40s) and a 30% increase in errors was noticed when participants were hungover.

“We are measuring a large range of cognitive functions using a comprehensive battery of neuropsychological tests which will reveal the associated brain functions that may be impaired. The findings are preliminary, but so far we are observing that tasks that rely on what psychologists call ‘working memory’ seem to be most reliably affected”, Owen said.

“So far we have found there are statistically significant differences on these tasks compared to the ‘no alcohol’ condition however the magnitude will not be fully apparent until all the data is in.”

The findings of the study were presented at the 5th Annual Meeting of the Alcohol Hangover Research Group, Thu 1st – Fri 2nd August 2013.


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