It is well known that alcohol alters behaviour, but surprisingly it is not well studied at the brain level. However, a new research shows that certain areas in the brain associated with error processing are significantly affected by the effects of alcohol.
According to Beth Anderson, a postdoctoral fellow at the Olin Neuropsychiatry Research Centre at Hartford Hospital in Connecticut and lead author of the paper, this research is only the first step in a much larger process.
“Once we understand how it is altering the brain, we can better inform the public of the consequences of drinking alcohol,” he said.
The researchers gave 38 volunteers different doses of alcohol to establish a breath alcohol concentration of zero for the control group, 0.5 per cent for moderate intoxication, or 0.1 per cent for a high level of alcohol intake.
The experiment showed that after receiving the highest level of alcohol, individuals were found to have an increased reaction time, more errors and an overall decrease of successful trials.
According to Anderson, the lack of data regarding the moderate doses of alcohol was likely due to the fact that the participants were able to partially compensate for the effects of the alcohol. However, following the higher dose, individuals would have had a much more difficult time achieving that.
“The increased reaction time was likely an attempt to compensate for their impairment. They may have slowed down in an attempt to keep from making more errors,” he added. However, these results still yield more questions regarding the mystery of how alcohol impairs the control centres of the brain.
The study is published in the journal Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research.