To support the free and open dissemination of research findings and information on alcoholism and alcohol-related problems. To encourage open access to peer-reviewed articles free for all to view.

For full versions of posted research articles readers are encouraged to email requests for "electronic reprints" (text file, PDF files, FAX copies) to the corresponding or lead author, who is highlighted in the posting.


Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Effects of acute alcohol intoxication on automated processing: evidence from the double-step paradigm

Reflexive and voluntary levels of processing have been studied extensively with respect to possible impairments due to alcohol intoxication.

This study examined alcohol effects at the ‘automated’ level of processing essential to many complex visual processing tasks (e.g., reading, visual search) that involve ongoing modifications or reprogramming of well-practiced routines.

Data from 30 participants (16 male) were collected in two counterbalanced sessions (alcohol vs. no-alcohol control; mean breath alcohol concentration = 68 mg/dL vs. 0 mg/dL). Eye movements were recorded during a double-step task where 75% of trials involved two target stimuli in rapid succession (inter-stimulus interval [ISI] = 40, 70, or 100 ms) so that they could elicit two distinct saccades or eye movements (double steps). On 25% of trials a single target appeared.

Results indicated that saccade latencies were longer under alcohol. In addition, the proportion of single-step responses and the mean saccade amplitude (length) of primary saccades decreased significantly with increasing ISI.

The key novel finding, however, was that the reprogramming time needed to cancel the first saccade and adjust saccade amplitude was extended significantly by alcohol. The additional time made available by prolonged latencies due to alcohol was not utilized by the saccade programming system to decrease the number of two-step responses.

These results represent the first demonstration of specific alcohol-induced programming deficits at the automated level of oculomotor processing.

Read Full Abstract

Request Reprint E-Mail: