If beer made you smarter there'd be a lot more geniuses among us.
A new study, published in the Journal of Neuroscience and conducted by Neurobiologist Hitoshi Morikawa of the Waggoner Center for Alcohol and Addiction Research at The University of Texas, apparently shows that though traditional views of alcohol and memory still hold true, drinking can prime other parts of the brain for a different type of learning. Subconscious.
"Usually, when we talk about learning and memory, we're talking about conscious memory," Morikawa says in a statement. "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 effect is attributed to the release of dopamine in the study. According to Morikawa, though the chemical is often known for making people 'happy,' it also plays a large role in subconscious learning.
Perhaps more importantly, the study suggests that alcoholics may not be addicted to the pleasure derived from alcohol, but the cues that are reinforced with the release of dopamine.
"People commonly think of dopamine as a happy transmitter, or a pleasure transmitter, but more accurately it's a learning transmitter," Morikawa told UPI. "It strengthens those synapses that are active when dopamine is released."
In turn, the study suggests that alcoholism is a subconscious learned behavior as alcohol makes it easier to become a consistent behavior. It's kind of a self-fulfilling cycle, and according to the study creates drug-related learning patterns.