Alcohol cues increase cognitive impulsivity in individuals with alcoholism
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Individuals with alcoholism are characterized by both attentional bias for alcohol cues and prepotent response inhibition deficit. We tested the hypothesis that alcoholics exhibit greater cognitive disinhibition when the response to be suppressed is associated with alcohol-related information.
Forty recently detoxified individuals with alcoholism were compared with 40 healthy non-substance abusers on the “Alcohol-Shifting Task”, a variant of the go/no-go paradigm requiring a motor response to targets and no response to distracters. The aim was to test the ability of alcoholics to discriminate between alcohol-related and neutral words. Sometimes, the alcohol-related words were the targets for the “go” response, with neutral words as distracters, sometimes the reverse. Several shifts in target type occurred during the task.
Alcoholics made significantly more commission errors (i.e., press a key when a distracter displayed) and more omission errors (i.e., not press a key when a target displayed) than controls. Moreover, the number of commission errors was greater in alcoholics when alcohol-related stimuli had to be detected.
These results demonstrate that alcoholics exhibit a basic prepotent response inhibition deficit, which is enhanced when the response to be suppressed is related to alcohol. We discuss clinical and theoretical implications of these findings.
KeywordsAlcoholism Response inhibition Attentional bias
Thanks to Aline Ernster for her helpful assistance in collecting data.
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