Alcohol effects on inhibitory control of attention: Distinguishing between intentional and automatic mechanisms

Ben D. Abroms, Lawrence R. Gottlob, Mark T. Fillmore

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

76 Citations (SciVal)


Rationale: Recent research has begun to explore the possibility that inhibitory mechanisms of selective attention are particularly susceptible to the impairing effects of moderate doses of alcohol. However, literature also suggests that automatic processes might be more resistant to this impairing effect than controlled processes. Objective: The present study used a delayed ocular response task and a saccadic interference task to examine the effects of alcohol on both intentionally controlled and automatic inhibitory influences on selective attention. Materials and methods: Twelve healthy adults performed both tasks under three doses of alcohol (0.0, 0.45, and 0.65 g/kg). Results: The results showed that alcohol reduced intentional inhibitory control over selective attention but had no effect on automatic inhibitory influences. Conclusion: The present investigation marks the first effort to directly compare alcohol effects on automatic and intentional inhibitory mechanisms of visual attention. The results suggest that attentional processes dependent on intentional inhibitory control may be more susceptible to the impairing effects of a moderate dose of alcohol than processes dependent on automatic inhibition.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)324-334
Number of pages11
Issue number3
StatePublished - Oct 2006

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Acknowledgements This research was supported by Grant RO1 AA12895 from the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism and by the National Institutes of Health, National Service Award DA07304 from the National Institute on Drug Abuse.


  • Alcohol
  • Attention
  • Automatic processes
  • Controlled processes
  • Delayed ocular response task
  • Eye movements
  • Inhibition
  • Saccadic interference task

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pharmacology


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