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Hangovers Actually Slow Your Brain Down, Unsurprising Research Proves

Aussie researchers tested people on a night out in Brisbane to figure out just how impaired their drinking made them the next day.

Scientists from Swinburne University of Technology recruited participants pre-hangover (that is to say, drunk on a night out) in Brisbane CBD, testing their blood alcohol concentration and then instructing them to take an online exam the next day.

The exam required the participants to fill out a survey describing their night out  -- including how many drinks were consumed and when they went home -- as well as assessing themselves on an Alcohol Hangover Severity Scale.

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Researchers managed to survey 105 people in this way -- hangover studies, understandably, have an extremely high attrition rate.

Hungover participants had to complete online exams that measured cognitive performance including working memory and executive function (the ability for the brain to regulate and control its own performance) and this score was measured against the amount of alcohol consumed the night before.

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The average blood alcohol concentration was 0.11 percent across all participants.

Using these scores, the researchers were able to show that hangovers slowed brain function. This is different to alcohol intoxication, which tends to lead to errors without much effect on reaction times.

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Perhaps unsurprisingly, these effects worsened for those who had a higher blood alcohol concentration the night earlier and who spent more time drinking.

While there has been research on how hangovers affect brains in the past, they have had mixed conclusions, which may be largely due to the fact that it's quite difficult to get drunk or hungover people to accurately assess their state -- or indeed, the number of drinks they have consumed.

The use of a breathalyser in the Swinburne study suggests it may be more accurate than previous research.

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Doctor Sarah Benson, one of the paper's authors, said that this information may have implications for how people think about hangovers and their effects even after a night out.

"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 said.

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