The benefits of drinking alcohol seem to swing from “there are none” to “maybe in moderation,” depending upon the study that has garnered the most attention that month. (One thing they all can agree on is that alcohol will definitely affect your body, with over-consumption leading to all sorts of bad outcomes from higher likelihood of injury to increased risk of cancer.)
But today’s one of those days when beer drinkers can rejoice: A few bottles of beer may be just the lubricant our brain needs to open up new avenues of creativity, according to new research from the University of Graz in Austria. (Of course it would be Austria.) For the study, the scientists took 70 adults ages 19–32 and had them drink either regular beer or non-alcoholic beer, while aiming for a respectably lubricated but not intoxicated blood alcohol level of 0.03 in those subjects drinking real beer.
The researchers then asked the two groups to complete several cognitive tests. Two focused on creative thinking: One entailed giving them unrelated words and then coming up with one word that connected them, and the other tested “divergent thinking” (like coming up with novel uses for an everyday object), and a test to determine their cognitive control. Both groups performed about the same on the divergent test, and the drinkers did worse on the cognitive control challenge. But for the word game those who had the alcohol actually performed much better than the sober folks.
The conclusion: A small dose of social lubricant, the authors found, can help with some areas of brain functioning—and that having control of higher brain functions doesn’t mean all parts of the brain are working optimally. Sometimes a bit of alcohol, it seems, can loosen up the brain and allow for better creativity. But the authors warn, the “beneficial effects are likely restricted to very modest amounts of alcohol, whereas excessive alcohol consumption typically impairs creative productivity.” So, you know, try to practice moderation. Prosit!