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Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Separating intentional inhibition of prepotent responses and resistance to proactive interference in alcohol-dependent individuals

Impulsivity is a hallmark of addictive behaviors. Addicts’ weakened inhibition of irrelevant prepotent responses is commonly thought to explain this association. However, inhibition is not a unitary mechanism. This study investigated the efficiency of overcoming competition due to irrelevant responses (i.e., inhibition of a prepotent response) and overcoming competition in memory (i.e., resistance to proactive interference) in sober and recently detoxified alcohol-dependent individuals.

Three cognitive tasks assessing the inhibition of a prepotent response (Hayling task, anti-saccade task and Stroop task) and two tasks tapping into the capacity to resist proactive interference (cued recall, Brown-Peterson variant) were administered to 30 non-amnesic recently detoxified alcohol-dependent individuals and 30 matched healthy participants without alcohol dependency. In addition, possible confounds such as verbal updating in working memory was assessed.

Alcohol-dependent subjects performed worse than healthy participants on the three cognitive tasks assessing the inhibition of irrelevant prepotent responses but group performance was similar in the tasks assessing overcoming proactive interference in memory, updating of working memory and abstract reasoning.

These findings suggest that alcohol-dependence is mainly associated with impaired capacity to intentionally suppress irrelevant prepotent response information. Control of proactive interference from memory is preserved. Theoretical and clinical implications are discussed.

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