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Arch Toxicol. 2014 Feb;88(2):475-88. doi: 10.1007/s00204-013-1109-2. Epub 2013 Aug 8.

Effects of binge drinking on action cascading processes: an EEG study.

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  • 1Department of Biopsychology, Institute for Cognitive Neuroscience, Ruhr-University Bochum, Universitätsstrasse 150, 44780, Bochum, Germany,


High-dosage alcohol intoxication (i.e., binge drinking in humans) is an increasingly prevalent problem. Despite the well-known long-term consequences, the acute effects of high-dosage alcohol intoxication on cognitive control processes have not been investigated with respect to neurophysiological changes in humans. We provide insights into the effects of high-dosage ethanol intoxication on action control functions in humans on the basis of neurophysiological (EEG) data. Action control processes were examined in a stop-change task. Based on a detailed analysis of behavioral and electrophysiological data, we demonstrate a specific modulation of action cascading processes. Opposed to commonly held views, high-dosage ethanol intoxication (0.9-1.13 ‰) exerts highly specific effects on cognitive subprocesses mediating action control. If action control processes are performed in succession, intoxicated and non-intoxicated participants perform equally well. However, action control processes become compromised during high-dosage ethanol intoxication, when different response options require processing resources in parallel. Under high-dose ethanol intoxication, subjects are not able to prioritize different response options. We could demonstrate that the effects were of high effect sizes (η (2) = 0.702) and rely more on response selection deficits than on deficits in attentional processing. The changes in response selection processes are mediated via the anterior cingulate cortex. The specificity of the observed effects may be due to a differential involvement of dopaminergic and GABAergic processes in action control and attentional selection processes.

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