The study, conducted by researchers from the Boston University School of Public Health (BUSPH) and Brown University, has been published in the April 2010 edition of the journal Addiction,
It was seen that getting drunk in the evening did not have an impact on students' next day scores on academic tests requiring long-term memory, or on tests of recently learned material. Guzzling alcohol, however, slows participants' attention/reaction times and worsens mood states - outcomes that could affect safety-related behaviours like driving.
Jonathan Howland, professor of community health sciences at BUSPH, said they were surprised by the test-taking results because some prior studies have found that occupational performance was impaired the day after binge drinking.
But, he was quick to point out: "We looked at one particular academic outcome. Test-taking is only one measure of academic success."
The researchers also found that getting intoxicated could affect other types of academic performance, such as essay-writing and problem-solving requiring higher-order cognitive skills.
The researchers said: "We do not conclude... that excessive drinking is not a risk factor for academic problems.
"It is possible that a higher alcohol dose would have affected next-day academic test scores. Moreover, test-taking is only one factor in academic success. Study habits, motivation and class attendance also contribute to academic performance; each of these could be affected by intoxication."
While some previous studies, using surveys, have demonstrated that students who drink heavily have more academic difficulties than their peers who drink more moderately, this is the first study to analyse that association by enrolling students in a controlled experiment, said Howland.
For the study, the researchers tested 193 university students, ages 21 to 24, recruited from the Boston area. Over the course of four days - one evening and the next morning, and then a second evening and morning a week later - volunteer participants received either beer or non-alcoholic beer. They received the opposite drink the second time they were tested.
The morning after, participants were given the practice versions of the Graduate Record Exam (GRE), as well as a mock quiz on an academic lecture they received the previous afternoon. An emergency medical technician monitored students overnight.
It was seen that volunteers scored no differently on the GREs, or on the quizzes, whether they had consumed alcoholic or non-alcoholic beer. Howland noted that the scores on the GRE and quizzes were relatively high, showing that the students were taking the tests seriously. The researchers used different versions of the GREs, and quizzes on different lectures, that were comparable in difficulty. (ANI)