Learning from drunk, sad rats

Drowning his sorrows: Sorry, little buddy, but it won't work.  (Photo courtesy of AlexK100 on
Drowning his sorrows: Sorry, little buddy, but it won't work. (Photo courtesy of AlexK100 on
Scientists are giving alcohol to little ratsies and discovering that drinking may, in fact, strengthen memory. At first glance, this flies in the face of hundreds of years of college students waking up with skinned knees, burned fingers, and mystery bruises, and then wondering how they possibly could have obtained them, but the methods employed by Ohio State researchers are hilarious enough, in a casual cruelty kind of way, that one has to take notice.

The researchers found that moderate consumption of alcohol seems to benefit memory, while the consumption of large amounts tends to impair it, except in situations involving “heightened emotion.”

These conclusions were reached by giving rats liquid food solutions containing 0, 2.5, or 5 percent alcohol. According to their report, “the lower dose of alcohol is equivalent to a couple of glasses of wine a day and produces blood-alcohol levels well below typical legal driving limits. The higher dose gave the rats equivalent blood-alcohol levels well above the driving limits.”

I wasn’t aware rats were even legally able to drive in the first place, but, then again, I’ve never been to Ohio.

The moderate drinking rats were found to have improved “neutral” memory (like the ability to recall the location of objects), as well as “emotional” memory (the emotional incident apparently being an electric shock to the foot). The heavy drinking rats were less able to remember the location of objects, but recalled the emotional memory (electrocution) very well.

The researchers think that the benefit of moderate drinking may be from the brain sensing the alcohol as a mild injury, and becoming stronger as a response – sort of like physical exercise, where muscles are challenged and then strengthen.

Apparently the idea of “drinking to forget” only works if you’re a very committed drinker, and even then you probably won’t forget your divorce. Finding your keys will be more difficult, though.

This all, of course, leaves the rats in something of a bind. With self-medication out of the picture, one wonders how they’re supposed to deal with the boozy food, as well as the constant electrocutions and memory tests. Talk therapy might be less than adequate.

Your Comments, Thoughts, Questions, Ideas

Anonymous's picture
Anonymous says:

im am currently doin a boiology experiment on the effects of alcohol on rats, i am curious to any suggestions you have

posted on Tue, 03/04/2008 - 8:12pm
JGordon's picture
JGordon says:

Buy some very tiny cups.

And maybe some tiny lampshades, depending on how far you want to take the experiment.

posted on Thu, 03/06/2008 - 7:59pm
Anonymous's picture
Anonymous says:

these are innocent creatures and what real benefit is it to us to know that drinking alcohol gives us longer lasting memory! most people reading this will only notice the part 'drinking may, in fact, strengthen memory.' and then go out drinking excessive amounts of alcohol thinking it doing them good by improving their memory but not actually relising that excessive amounts will only do more harm and alcohol only consumed in moderate amounts will be of any benefit.
So please stop the unnessecary experiments on rats!!

posted on Sat, 04/26/2008 - 12:41am
JGordon's picture
JGordon says:

I refuse.

posted on Sat, 04/26/2008 - 1:23pm
AdaWakeman's picture
AdaWakeman says:

“The researchers found that moderate consumption of alcohol seems to benefit memory” You should have typed moderate with caps. Maybe some people won’t get the idea and will start drinking non-stop --- especially the students who are threaten by their exams and instead of going to the college they will go to an alcohol rehabilitation clinic. Anyway, you used a very sweet picture. That little rat is being so cute! :P

posted on Thu, 12/18/2008 - 1:34am
JGordon's picture
JGordon says:

I hate typing in caps. But, just for you, I'll make it bold.

posted on Thu, 12/18/2008 - 9:38am
james lee newberg's picture
james lee newberg says:

This study would make a hell of a premise for a Tom & Jerry cartoon, don't you think?

posted on Thu, 12/18/2008 - 3:40am

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