Multisensory Stop Signals Can Reduce the Disinhibiting Effects of Alcohol in Adults

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Abstract

Background:

Alcohol impairs drinkers' abilities to inhibit inappropriate responses. Certain stimulus conditions have been shown to facilitate behavioral control. Under conditions where individuals are presented with multiple inhibitory signals, the speed and consistency with which they are able to inhibit a response is improved. Recent research has shown that multisensory signals might protect against the disruptive effects of alcohol on mechanisms of behavioral control. This study examined whether multisensory stop signals can be used to improve inhibitory control, possibly by speeding attentional shifts toward inhibitory “stop” signals in the environment.

Methods:

Twenty adult social drinkers performed a modified cued go/no-go task that measured the ability to inhibit prepotent responses following 0.64 g/kg alcohol and placebo. Response targets were presented as unimodal (visual) and as multisensory (visual + aural) stimuli.

Results:

Results showed that during unimodal response target trials, participants made more inhibitory failures under 0.64 g/kg alcohol compared to placebo. During multisensory trials, however, there was no significant effect of alcohol on inhibitory control.

Conclusions:

These findings identify multisensory inhibitory signals as a potentially important environmental factor that can reduce the degree to which alcohol disinhibits behavior possibly by intersensory co-activation between the visual and auditory pathways.

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