Effects of d-Amphetamine and Ethanol on a Measure of Behavioral Inhibition in Humans

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Little is known about the acute effects of psychoactive drugs on impulsivity and decision making in humans. This study examined the effects of d-amphetamine (AMP; 10 and 20 mg; N = 20) and ethanol (EtOH; 0.2, 0.4, and 0.8 g/kg; N = 17) on the stop task, a putative measure of behavioral inhibition and impulsivity in healthy human volunteers. The stop task provides a measure of the reaction time (RT) needed to inhibit a response (Stop RT [SRT]), relative to the time taken to execute a simple response (Go RT [GRT]). Healthy volunteers performed the stop task before and after receiving one of the drugs. AMP decreased SRT—that is, improved inhibition—only in participants with slow baseline SRTs. EtOH increased SRTs—that is, impaired inhibition—at doses that did not affect GRTs. These results suggest that AMP and EtOH have specific and distinctive effects on the ability to inhibit responses. Impairment in the ability to inhibit responses is thought to reflect a certain form of impulsivity.

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