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Behav Pharmacol. 2004 Mar;15(2):111-21.

Does alcohol affect memory for emotional and non-emotional experiences in different ways?

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1
Department of Psychology, School of Life Sciences, University of Sussex, Falmer, Brighton, UK.

Abstract

Alcohol has been shown to have both impairing and facilitating effects on memory, depending on the sequencing of learning and ingestion of the drug. Its effects on memory for emotional material, however, have not been shown reliably. The current experiment sought to investigate the effects of alcohol on later recall of emotional and neutral events experienced before and after alcohol drinking. Using an incidental-learning paradigm, alcohol (0.65 g/kg) or placebo was administered in a double-blind randomized design to 34 participants, between two learning phases in which they viewed and rated positive, negative and neutral images. The drug's effects on memory were assessed in a surprise test of free recall. In addition, impact of alcohol on ratings of mood states, and of valence and arousal that the pictures evoked, was examined. Alcohol facilitated memory for material seen before, and impaired memory for material seen after, its administration. Furthermore, under alcohol, emotional images in the first set were more recalled over neutral than in the second set, indicating a higher retrograde facilitation for emotional than for neutral material. Alcohol improved positive mood states but had no effect on negative mood states. Evaluation of pictures with regard to valence showed an increase of the ratings for the positive and neutral images after alcohol and a decrease after placebo. No drug effects were found for arousal ratings. Whether a picture was likely to be remembered or not (tested only for set 2) was dependent on the intensity of the arousal but not of the valence that the picture evoked in the participants. Pictures that were rated high in arousal were also remembered better, and this effect was irrespective of alcohol or placebo ingestion. These data have shown that alcohol elicits retrograde facilitation and anterograde impairment for emotional materials. Furthermore, these data demonstrate that alcohol selectively facilitates memories for emotional events experienced before administration, and suggest a possible explanation for the reinforcing effects of drinking.

PMID:
15096911
[Indexed for MEDLINE]
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