Alcohol has been shown to affect performance on tasks associated with executive functioning. However, studies in this area have generally been limited to a single dose or gender or have used small sample sizes. The purpose of this study was to provide a more nuanced and systematic examination of alcohol's effects on commonly used tests of executive functioning at multiple dosages in both men and women. Research volunteers (91 women and 94 men) were randomly assigned to one of four drink conditions (alcohol doses associated with target blood alcohol concentrations of .000%, .050%, .075%, and .100%). Participants then completed three tasks comprising two domains of executive functioning: two set shifting tasks, the Trail Making Test and a computerized version of the Wisconsin Card Sorting Task, and a response inhibition task, the Go Stop Impulsivity Paradigm. Impaired performance on set shifting tasks was found at the .100% and .075% dosages, but alcohol intoxication did not impair performance on the Go Stop. No gender effects emerged. Thus, alcohol negatively affects set shifting at moderately high levels of intoxication in both men and women, likely attributable to alcohol's interference with prefrontal cortex function. Although it is well established that alcohol negatively affects response inhibition as measured by auditory stop-signal tasks, alcohol does not appear to exert a negative effect on response inhibition as measured by the Go Stop, a visual stop-signal task.
Experimental and Clinical Psychopharmacology
Guillot, C. R.,
Fanning, J. R.,
Bullock, J. S.,
McCloskey, M. S.,
Berman, M. E.
(2010). Effects of Alcohol on Tests of Executive Functioning in Men and Women: A Dose Response Examination. Experimental and Clinical Psychopharmacology, 18(5), 409-417.
Available at: https://aquila.usm.edu/fac_pubs/800