Differential impairments across attentional networks in binge drinking
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The cognitive deficits observed in young binge drinkers have been largely documented during the last decade. Yet, these earlier studies have mainly focused on high-level cognitive abilities (particularly memory and executive functions), and uncertainty thus still abounds regarding the integrity of less complex cognitive processes in binge drinking. This is particularly true for attentional abilities, which play a crucial role in behavior regulation and are impaired in other alcohol-related disorders.
Objectives and methods
To specify the attentional deficits associated with binge drinking, two groups of university students (40 binge drinkers and 40 matched controls) performed the Attention Network Task, a theoretically grounded test assessing three independent attentional networks: alerting, orienting, and executive control.
Binge drinkers displayed preserved orienting performance but impaired alerting and executive control. Binge drinking is thus not related to a general attentional impairment but rather to specific impairments of the alerting and executive control networks.
These results underline that, beyond the already explored high-level deficits, binge drinking is also related to impairments for attentional abilities. In view of the role played by attentional impairments in alcohol dependence, the present data also suggest that rehabilitation programs should be developed to improve attentional abilities at the early stages of alcohol-related disorders.
KeywordsBinge drinking Alcohol dependence Attentional abilities Alerting Orienting Executive control
This research has been supported by the Belgian Fund for Scientific Research, the European Commission for Research on the problematic usage of information and communication technology [Grant ID: FP7-PEOPLE-2013-IEF-627999], and the “Fondation pour la Recherche en Alcoologie (FRA)”. This research also received the support from a postdoctoral fellowship in clinical neuroscience from the “Helaers Foundation” and the “WBI World Excellence Grant: Competitive Cluster in Life Sciences—BIOWIN” (sub/2015/228106243177), both awarded to Alexandre Heeren.
Compliance with ethical standards
All participants provided their written informed consent. All the procedures contributing to this work were approved by the local ethics committee and complied with the Helsinki Declaration of 1975, as revised in 2008.
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