Inhibitory control and response monitoring are not systematically related to weekly alcohol consumption in the general population

In alcohol use disorder, deficits in cognitive control (i.e., inhibition and response monitoring) might underlie the loss of self-control and, thereby, failure to adjust alcohol consumption in response to associated negative consequences.


Background: According to the continuum hypothesis, the magnitude of these deficits should be related in a stair-case manner, with the greatest deficits among its heaviest consumers. The current study aims at investigating this association in the general population.

Methods: This is a cross-sectional study of 397 participants aged 18–64 years, who self-reported their mean weekly alcohol consumption and were assessed with the stop-signal task, estimating inhibitory efficiency (stop-signal reaction time; SSRT) and response monitoring (post-error slowing; PES). Set-shifting ability was investigated by the intra-extra dimensional (IED) set-shifting task. Three ANCOVAs were performed with SSRT, PES, and IED as the dependent variables (DV), respectively, and alcohol consumption levels as the independent variable. Covariates were included when they were significantly associated with the DV.

Results: Compared to the teetotalers, all levels of alcohol consumption were significantly associated to lower SSRT, which implies more efficient inhibitory control; however, there was no significant difference in SSRT between other consumption levels. The two highest consumption groups had significantly shorter PES when compared to teetotalers and/or the lowest consumption group, implying less behavioral adjustment after failures. IED was not significantly related to the alcohol consumption levels.

Conclusions: There was no stair-case relation between weekly consumption levels and cognitive control functions within this general population, which might be due to the limited consumption range investigated.

Psychopharmacology, 2017, 1-8, doi:10.1007/s00213-017-4578-9

Published Apr. 3, 2017 7:15 AM - Last modified Nov. 7, 2017 3:08 PM