Effect of cues associated with an alcoholic beverage on executive function

Birak, K.S., Terry, P. and Higgs, S. (2010) Effect of cues associated with an alcoholic beverage on executive function. Journal of Studies on Drugs and Alcohol, 71(4), pp. 562-569. ISSN (print) 1937-1888


Objective: To investigate whether alcohol-associated drink cues can elicit conditioned compensatory responses that counter alcohol’s effects on cognition. Method: A between-subjects design was used in which participants were randomly assigned to one of three drink groups: an alcohol-associated drink (lager based) or one of two drinks not usually associated with alcohol (a fruit squash-fl avored drink or an apple schnapps-flavored drink; n = 15 per group). The amount of alcohol in each was the same: 0.65 g/kg body weight for men and 0.57 g/kg for women. Executive functions of inhibition, updating of working memory, and attentional set shifting were measured using the CANTABeclipse computerized test battery before and after alcohol consumption. Self-reported mood was measured, and participants provided ratings of the drinks’ sensory and hedonic properties. Results: Participants in the lager drink group showed less disinhibitory responding in an affective go/nogo task and less of a reduction in alertness than participants in the two other groups. The lager group was also faster to respond in the set-shifting task than the group given the “squash” (nonassociated) drink. There were no significant differences between the groups in how they evaluated the drinks’ sensory/hedonic properties. Conclusions: These data provide provisional evidence to suggest that cues previously associated with alcohol in lager drinkers (particularly the taste and smell of lager) can elicit compensatory responses that counter alcohol’s cognitive effects and its effects on alertness.

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