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Acute recovery and tolerance to low doses of alcohol: Differences in cognitive and motor skill performance


Two groups of male social drinkers were trained on a coding and pursuit rotor (PR) task, and then were tested on these two tasks under either alcohol (0.88 ml 94.6% alcohol/kg) or placebo. These treatments were repeated four times at weekly intervals, with similar blood alcohol concentrations (BAC, P>0.50) attained on all sessions (mean peak=0.082%). Drug-free coding and PR, tested prior to each drinking session, revealed no group differences or change during the course of the experiment. On initial drinking sessions, coding was disrupted (P<0.02) at rising BAC levels where PR failed to reveal impairment (P>0.50). However, immediately after peak BAC was reached, acute recovery was evident in coding at a falling BAC were PR remained impaired (P<0.01). These differences in impairment between tasks on the two limbs of the BAC curve suggested that conflicting evidence on the sensitivity of various tasks to alcohol effects may be obtained when studies examine task performance without respect to the limb of the BAC curve. Coding and PR also were differently affected by repeated exposure to alcohol. At later drinking sessions, tolerance was evident in coding, but the impairment in PR remained (P<0.01). Since the task that recovered more swiftly from a single dose of alcohol also revealed faster development of tolerance, it was suggested that the phenomena of acute recovery and tolerance may be positively correlated, and different for different types of tasks.

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Vogel-Sprott, M.D. Acute recovery and tolerance to low doses of alcohol: Differences in cognitive and motor skill performance. Psychopharmacology 61, 287–291 (1979). https://doi.org/10.1007/BF00432274

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Key words

  • Behaviour
  • Alcohol
  • Tolerance
  • Acute recovery