When you’re reeling from a traumatic event, like a bad breakup or a huge blowout with a sibling, it can often feel like your brain is conspiring against you, changing the way you think about everyone and everything in your life. Now science has come up with a term for this annoyingly inescapable condition: “emotional hangover.”

New psychology research published in Nature Neuroscience explores how emotional moments affect individuals. In a study conducted at NYU, a group of subjects was asked to view two series of images: first “emotional” content and then “neutral” content. A second group viewed the same material, only in the reverse order. After assigning the participants a memory test six hours later, the researchers discovered that while both groups equally remembered the emotional content, the individuals who saw the emotional content before the neutral content were more likely to also remember the neutral images they saw.


The lead author of the study, Lila Davachi, an associate professor in NYU’s Department of Psychology and Center for Neural Science, says this research demonstrates that your feelings can have major consequences when it comes to memory. Seriously emotional moments can trigger a lingering, hangover-like experience, influencing how vividly you remember people, places and events, even after you’ve moved past the immediate point when you were experiencing those strong emotions.

This research is an exciting new entry in our all-too-limited understanding of memory function and the human brain. Considering how much memory and behavior are intertwined, further research could help us understand how “emotional hangovers” might affect not just our memories, but also our actions. Until then, a good Netflix binge session might be in order the next time you’ve got an emotional hangover. Hey, all that extra memory power could help you ace your next trivia match!

Have you ever experienced an emotional hangover? Tweet us @BritandCo and let us know!

(Photos via Getty)