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Alcohol Increases Errors and Reaction Time During Decision Making, New Study Shows

Posted in Research

A new study has found that certain brain regions that are involved in error processing are more affected by alcohol than other regions. It’s long been known that alcohol alters behavior, but until now, there hasn’t been much research on how alcohol affects brain systems. Beth Anderson, a postdoctoral fellow at the Olin Neuropsychiatry Research Centre at Hartford Hospital in Connecticut, said that once researchers understand how alcohol alters the brain, they can better inform people about the negative consequences of alcohol.

For the study, 38 participants were given different doses of alcohol to establish a blood-alcohol concentration of 0.00 (low dose), 0.05 (moderate dose), or 0.1 percent (high dose). Once the participants became intoxicated, the participants underwent a reaction test, where they were instructed to press a button only when the letter “X” was displayed.

The participants with the highest blood-alcohol concentration had the most increase in reaction time, more errors, and an overall decline in performance. There wasn’t much difference in performance between the low and moderate doses of alcohol, but this is most likely because the participants were able to partially compensate for the alcohol’s effects. After the higher dose, they would have had a much more difficult time performing the task.

The researchers noted that further studies are needed to better understand how alcohol impairs certain regions of the brain.

Source: Science Daily, Alcohol Increases Reaction Time and Errors During Decision Making, October 20, 2010