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Does moderate intake of alcohol really affect brain cognitive functions?

Alcohol is one of the most popular psychoactive substances in the world, and many studies have demonstrated its negative effects on the human body and organs. However, if you are accustomed to having a couple of glasses of wine in the evening, you may find that the next day you are just as productive as usual.
This was the conclusion drawn by Waverox neurophysiologists, who conducted an experiment using BCI to read brain wave activity. They found that standard quantities of alcohol consumption do not significantly affect brain cognitive functions the day after consumption. The research team specifically measured how alcohol affected brain cognitive functions on the day after consuming an individual's usual alcohol intake (noting that each individual has their own typical serving). There were no similar studies conducted before this one.
«In this series of experiments, we decided to test some of the most popular beliefs about what we think we know about our brains. When planning this experiment, our hypothesis was that individuals would have their cognitive abilities significantly affected the day after consuming several glasses of wine, and that this would be evident in both test results and EEG data. We were looking for something specific, but we happened to find something else — as sometimes happens. We did not observe any negative effect on cognitive abilities. Of course, this raises many questions. I identify as a moderately drinking (and excessively working) manager, and I often blamed alcohol for my lack of clear thinking the next day. It might have been a story that I was just telling myself. Anyway, it gave me an incentive to explore what my unwellness was actually connected with. We will continue to study how different states affect the brain using Waverox devices, and I am confident we have a lot to discover,» said Nik Ershov, Waverox CEO.
The Waverox neurophysiologists team investigated the effects of moderate alcohol intake on brain cognitive functions the day after consumption. Previous studies focused solely on the moment of strong alcohol intoxication or severe hangover, where it was found that intoxication deteriorates inhibitory control, focus, and memory.
The new study included 27 healthy individuals: 13 men and 14 women, aged 18–48. Over half of the participants reported drinking alcohol at least 2–4 times per month, while the rest reported alcohol use no less than once a month. All respondents were not addicted to alcohol. For about half of the participants, their usual alcohol intake included 4 standard drinks, corresponding to 2 bottles of beer or 2 glasses of wine per WHO guidelines. Some respondents consumed up to 10 standard drinks (almost one 0.7L bottle of wine), while others only consumed one standard drink (60ml of wine). All participants took the test twice: once the day before alcohol intake (after abstaining from alcohol for about a week), and again the day after consuming alcohol.
In the experiment, participants took several tests to assess inhibitory control (Go/No-Go test), vigilance (Psychomotor Vigilance Task), decision-making speed (Memory test), and stress (Stroop test). The Waverox BCI was used to measure brain wave activity in real-time, and EEG was recorded throughout the entire experiment.
As a result, none of the tests revealed significant differences in cognitive functions or EEG data. No differences were observed in cognitive functions on the day after usual alcohol intake among participants who consume alcohol regularly.
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Figure 1. Average theta, alpha, and beta power during tests.
It is good to keep in mind that modern research says that even moderate alcohol consumption can impair cognitive abilities to some degree. There is widespread agreement that acute alcohol intoxication affects cognitive functioning and that this cognitive impairment could mediate many diverse behavioral and affective consequences of alcohol intoxication. However, there has been considerable disagreement on how to characterize the cognitive effects of alcohol.