When Nerds Drink

I guess this post could also be called “Pub Trivia – Night Two”, but the trivia takes a backseat this week (although we did come in SECOND!!! Go team BOTH LEGS UP!).

I don’t drink much. I really REALLY don’t drink much. What I do end up doing, though is going to the bar every three or four months, getting shit faced, and then I have a terrible couple of days of recovery (usually with a good amount of throwing up), sometimes followed by a realisation of a black out. Tuesday night was that night, my friends, and man was it a messy deal. I’m not sure what avenue of nervousness did it to me: the best friend with whom I have a crazy past, the basically married dude with whom I have an inappropriate friendship (or maybe HIS WIFE showing up :^o), or maybe it was when my boss, who is so adorable I can barely look at him without blushing, showed up and sat down right next to me. Whatever it was, I was pounding back the drinks like a teenager trying to prove something.

So, while recovering and being the nerdy girl I am, I had to look up what and why alcohol induces blackouts in some people and not in others, what areas of the brain


“Alcohol primarily interferes with the ability to form new long–term memories, leaving intact previously established long–term memories and the ability to keep new information active in memory for brief periods. As the amount of alcohol consumed increases, so does the magnitude of the memory impairments. Large amounts of alcohol, particularly if consumed rapidly, can produce partial (i.e., fragmentary) or complete (i.e., en bloc) blackouts, which are periods of memory loss for events that transpired while a person was drinking. Blackouts are much more common among social drinkers — including college drinkers — than was previously assumed, and have been found to encompass events ranging from conversations to intercourse. Mechanisms underlying alcohol–induced memory impairments include disruption of activity in the hippocampus, a brain region that plays a central role in the formation of new auotbiographical memories.”



Reading further I found out: “people with a history of blackouts are more vulnerable to the effects of alcohol on memory than those without a history of blackouts…” authors of the study recruited 108 college students, half of whom had experienced at least one fragmentary blackout in the previous year and, While sober, members of the two groups performed comparably in memory tasks… When they were mildly intoxicated (0.08 percent BAC) those with a history of fragmentary blackouts performed worse than those without such a history. There are two possible interpretations for these data, both of which support the hypothesis that some people are more susceptible to blackouts than others. One plausible interpretation is that subjects in the fragmentary blackout group always have been more vulnerable to alcohol–induced memory impairments, which is why they performed poorly during testing under alcohol, and why they are members of the blackout group in the first place. A second interpretation is that subjects in the blackout group performed poorly during testing as a result of drinking enough in the past to experience alcohol–induced memory impairments. In other words, perhaps their prior exposure to alcohol damaged the brain in a way that predisposed them to experiencing future memory impairments. This latter possibility is made more likely by recent evidence that students who engage in repeated episodes of heavy, or binge, drinking are more likely than other students to exhibit memory impairments when they are intoxicated (Weissenborn and Duka 2000). Similar results have been observed in animal studies (White et al. 2000a).”

So, knowing how bad my memory is on a good day, I have resolved to “not drink to excess” or to only drink one beverage every 45 minutes maximum to reduce the affect alcohol might have on my memory. Crazy? Maybe, considering all the other ways I’ve abused my hippocampus, but it’s something. Drink responsibly lovelies!

drink responsibly sign


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