Drinking can't help forget your problems: Study

Drinking can't help forget your problems: Study

Drinking can't help forget your problems: Study

Researchers at the Waggoner Centre for Alcohol and Addiction Research at the University of Texas found that getting drunk primes certain areas of the brain to learn and remember things more clearly.

The common view that drinking makes one forget about things and impairs the person's learning is not wrong, but it highlights only one side of what alcohol does to the brain, the researchers said.

"Usually, when we talk about learning and memory, we're talking about conscious memory," study author Hitoshi Morikawa was quoted as saying by the Daily Mail.
"Alcohol diminishes our ability to hold on to pieces of information like your colleague's name, or the definition of a word, or where you parked your car this morning.
"But our subconscious is learning and remembering too, and alcohol may actually increase our capacity to learn, or 'conditionability', at that level."

The study, published in The Journal of Neuroscience, found that repeated exposure to ethanol enhances synaptic plasticity -- the ability of the connection, or synapse, between two neurons -- in a key area in the brain.

When people drink alcohol or take drugs, the subconscious is not only learning to consume more but becoming more receptive to forming subconscious memories and habits with respect to food, music, even people and social situations, the researchers found.

Alcoholics, according to Morikawa, aren't addicted to the experience of pleasure or relief they get from drinking alcohol but to the environmental, behavioural and physiological cues that are reinforced when alcohol triggers the release of dopamine in the brain.
"People commonly think of dopamine as a happy transmitter, or a pleasure transmitter, but more accurately it's a learning transmitter," he said.

"It strengthens those synapses that are active when dopamine is released."
Chatting with friends, eating certain foods and enjoying certain music and other such things we do while drinking are considered rewarding.

The more often we do these things while drinking, and the more dopamine that gets released, the more "potentiated" the various synapses become and the more people crave the set of experiences associated with drinking, the researchers said.

By understanding the neurobiological underpinnings of addiction better, Morikawa hopes he can develop anti-addiction drugs that would weaken, rather than strengthen, the key synapses.

"We are talking about de-wiring things. It's kind of scary because it has the potential to be a mind controlling substance. Our goal though is to reverse the mind controlling aspects of addictive drugs," Morikawa said.