Food and Behaviour Research

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How hangovers reduce brain function

Nick Adams, Swinburne University of Technology


Hangovers reduce brain function and memory, according to new research.


This study confirmed that the more alcohol consumed the night before, and the more severe the next-day hangover, the worse was the performance of the participants (recruited and breathalysed at the end of a night out) on a range of online tests of cognitive performance.

One might perhaps think these findings would hardly be surprising to anyone....

However, the researchers' justification for the time and resources spent is that public health benefits may follow from having firm evidence that alcoholic hangovers impair brain function and memory - and thus the "ability to drive, work, study or conduct other activities."

It's quite hard to believe that people who don't already know this would actually change their behaviour as a result of this kind of evidence. 

However, it might perhaps provide backing for actions aimed at reducing the harmful consequences of excessive alcohol consumption by public health authorities, employers or the many others negatively affected by the actions of those who either don't know, or continue to ignore the brain dysfunction this causes. 

For more details of this research, see:

And for more news articles on the effects of alcohol on brain development and function, cognition and mental health, please see:

Hangovers reduce brain function and memory, according to new research from Swinburne University of Technology (Swinburne) in Melbourne.

The research was conducted in the central entertainment district of Brisbane and involved breathalyzing and interviewing participants at the end of a night out.

The following morning, more than 100 participants who had consumed alcohol that night completed an online survey and cognitive test, while experiencing varying degrees of hangovers. The test measured brain function, particularly memory and executive function.

The research found that those who had a higher breath alcohol concentration (BAC) on the previous night, spent more time drinking, reported worse hangover symptoms and performed the test slower than more sober counterparts.

Why it matters

"Not surprisingly, the more alcohol that is consumed, the worse the hangover and impairment to the brain," says Swinburne Postdoctoral Research Fellow, Dr Sarah Benson. However, Dr Benson adds that this type of research is important so people understand their limitations while hungover. 

"It is important to learn more about the causes and consequences of hangover because not only are hangovers very commonly experienced, but they also have potentially huge negative effects on day-to-day activities," she says.

"For example, our study proves that hangovers reduce ability to engage in complex behaviors, and thus ability to drive, work, study or conduct other activities are impaired by hangover."

A deeper understanding

The team behind the research continues to explore the effects of hangovers on brain function, looking for better ways to engage with a wider pool of participants.

"Getting people to complete the next-day measures can be tricky, as hangovers can prevent participants from completing the prescribed test," says Dr Benson.

"By having our participants complete the next-day measures online, we made it relatively simple to take part but we are still looking towards better ways to improve engagement."