Sep
09
2008

Magic potion highlights happy memories, fades embarrassing ones

That hint of a smile?: That's from the happy memories. Those people in the background? Those are the bad memories getting ready.
That hint of a smile?: That's from the happy memories. Those people in the background? Those are the bad memories getting ready.Courtesy Bistrosavage
Scientists have discovered what I’m calling a magic potion that has the remarkable affect of strengthening memories you acquire before drinking it, and weakening the recollection of events that occur afterwards.

The name of this potion? We call it whisky.

We also call it beer, wine, and liquor of all stripes. Indeed, we call it alcohol.

What’s new here? Time and time again, we wake up wearing women’s clothing (or not wearing women’s clothing) and we think, “Sure, I’m wearing a dress, but how exactly did this happen? The last thing I remember is drinking some sort of magic potion…” The effects of alcohol on the memories of what happens afterwards are pretty well documented, even if the memories themselves aren’t. What’s new is the finding that consuming alcohol seems to reinforce memories formed before drinking. Memories like, “this is a sharp new pair of men’s slacks I’m wearing,” or “it doesn’t look like I’m going to embarrass myself tonight.”

Although the specific mechanisms through which alcohol affects memory are still not fully understood, the research works pretty well in explaining why people tend to continue drinking even if they’ve had bad experiences with it in the past—pleasant memories associated with pre-drinking time, like socializing with friends, are very strong, while the less enjoyable experiences after drinking, like struggling to unlock what may or may not be the door to your own apartment, quickly fade away.

The findings also seem to correspond with a study I did a post on last year regarding sad, drunk rats. The major difference, as far as I can see, has to do with the fact that rats very rarely wear women’s clothing. (I assume this is only because of the scarcity of specialty stores.)

Your Comments, Thoughts, Questions, Ideas

A match keel kiwi's picture
A match keel kiwi says:

so if you study furiosly, then drink heavily, you'll do really well on that test that you have two days from now

posted on Wed, 09/10/2008 - 7:30am
JGordon's picture
JGordon says:

Those were my thoughts, yes. But that other post, on the drunk rats, points out that moderate drinking strengthens "neutral" memories, and emotional memories, while heavy drinking strengthens only emotional memories. So you'd best stick to moderate drinking, unless the test is on how you felt while you were studying. (And here's a little crib note for you: you felt bored and frustrated.)

posted on Wed, 09/10/2008 - 9:43am
bistromathgirl's picture
bistromathgirl says:

Maybe this is why some of the smartest people in my college courses were also some of the heaviest drinkers I knew! And that is so unfair, since I was working off knowledge gained unaided by alcohol : (

posted on Sun, 09/14/2008 - 12:23pm
bryan kennedy's picture

I share your pain!

posted on Sat, 09/27/2008 - 3:22pm
Tinkerbelle :)'s picture
Tinkerbelle :) says:

Ahhhhhh Alcohol bad bad !!
does bad bad things to people, that we all regret something in the morning.
Cant live with it but its sooooo fun :( lol

posted on Thu, 11/20/2008 - 4:20am
Anonymous's picture
Anonymous says:

I drink alkohol every day in germany, am I addicted?

posted on Thu, 11/20/2008 - 1:05pm
AdaWakeman's picture
AdaWakeman says:

This is not new. We didn’t need some scientists to prove that. All the alcoholics who are now in an alcohol rehab program can tell you the same thing --- and they experienced it on their own, sacrificing their souls toward science. Anyway! Funny article! I think I am going to have a glass of whisky. Cheers mates!

posted on Thu, 12/18/2008 - 2:25am

Post new comment

The content of this field is kept private and will not be shown publicly.
  • Allowed HTML tags: <a> <h3> <h4> <em> <i> <strong> <b> <span> <ul> <ol> <li> <blockquote> <object> <embed> <param> <sub> <sup>
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.
  • You may embed videos from the following providers vimeo, youtube. Just add the video URL to your textarea in the place where you would like the video to appear, i.e. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pw0jmvdh.
  • Web page addresses and e-mail addresses turn into links automatically.
  • Images can be added to this post.

More information about formatting options