The morning after the night before: Alcohol-induced blackouts impair next day recall in sober young adults



Jackson J, Donaldson DI & Dering B (2021) The morning after the night before: Alcohol-induced blackouts impair next day recall in sober young adults. PLOS ONE, 16 (5), Art. No.: e0250827.

Binge-drinking in adolescents and young adults is a widespread problem, however, an often unreported consequence of binge-drinking behaviour is an alcohol-induced memory blackout (MBO). An MBO is a transient amnesic event resulting from rapid, excessive alcohol consumption. Here, we examine the short-term impact of an alcohol-induced MBO event (testing < 20 hours after blackout) on memory performance in people who have experienced a high volume of MBOs. In addition, we aimed to test the hypothesis that people who experience a high volume of MBOs may have poorer recall than non-blackout controls in either sober or intoxicated states. Three episodic memory paradigms consisting of free recall, serial recall, and depth of encoding tasks, were conducted by a group of alcohol drinkers who had never experienced a memory blackout, and those who reported at least 9 in the preceding 12-months. Studies were completed sober and after alcohol by all participants, and sober but after blackout by the experimental group. Accuracy of recall was assessed with linear mixed effects modelling for all experiments and conditions. Recall rate both before and after alcohol consumption was similar between groups, with poorer recall after drinking alcohol by all participants in all three studies. After blackout, MBO participants showed no significant improvement from their intoxicated state in serial recall and depth of encoding tasks, but an improvement in free recall. Further analysis of these findings revealed that 10 out of 23 participants showed significantly impaired performance after blackout during free recall, extending up to 17 participants in serial recall. In general, alcohol reduced recall rate in both blackout and control participants similarly, but recall following MBO remained poor. Our evidence suggests that alcohol-induced blackouts impair memory functioning the next day, and future research should establish the duration of deficits after an acute alcohol-induced blackout episode.

General Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology; General Agricultural and Biological Sciences; General Medicine

PLOS ONE: Volume 16, Issue 5

Publication date31/12/2021
Publication date online03/05/2021
Date accepted by journal14/04/2021
Related URLs
PublisherPublic Library of Science (PLoS)

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Dr Benjamin Dering

Dr Benjamin Dering

Lecturer, Psychology