Acute effects of alcohol on divided and covert attention in men
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Rationale: While several studies identified divided attention to be sensitive to alcohol effects, the impact of alcohol on covert visual attention is still not clear, despite the latter's important role in perception. Objectives: The study tests the effect of acute moderate doses of alcohol on divided and covert attention in right-handed, male volunteers. Methods: The design of the study involved a double-blind trial with an alcohol and a placebo condition; measurements were taken before and after an oral dose of 0.6 g/kg alcohol versus placebo. In the divided-attention task, simultaneous visuo-spatial and auditory stimulation was applied. In a test of covert attention, subjects had to shift their attentional focus according to a central cue, from one location in the visual field to another. Results: Under the divided-attention condition, reaction times were significantly prolonged after alcohol ingestion compared to placebo. Covert attention pre-post change was also significantly different between the alcohol and placebo groups. There is a reduction of false-cueing disturbance for left-appearing stimuli under moderate alcohol but an increase of disturbance for rightward stimuli, i.e. we found a lateralised pattern of reaction for spatial orienting. In the placebo group, no significant differences in right-left performance were obtained. Conclusion: The results suggest that sensory-attentional mechanisms play a key role in altered visual perceptual performance after alcohol ingestion. Furthermore, differences between the right and left visual field in the cued target-detection task indicate that alcohol exerts an influence on right-hemispheric attentional priming.
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