Alcohol-related stimuli reduce inhibitory control of behavior in drinkers

Jessica Weafer, Mark T. Fillmore

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

58 Scopus citations


Rationale Poor behavioral control and heightened attentional bias toward alcohol-related stimuli have independently received considerable attention in regard to their roles in alcohol abuse. Theoretical accounts have begun to speculate as to potential reciprocal interactions between these two mechanisms that might promote excessive alcohol consumption, yet experimental evidence is lacking. Objectives The objective of the study was to integrate these two lines of research through the development of a novel laboratory task that examines the degree to which alcohol cues serve to disrupt mechanisms of behavioral control. Methods Fifty adult drinkers were recruited to perform the attentional bias-behavioral activation (ABBA) task. The ABBA task, an adaptation of traditional cued go/no-go tasks, is a reaction time model that measures the degree to which alcohol-related stimuli can increase behavioral activation of a drinker and reduce the ability to inhibit inappropriate responses. Participants also completed a novel measure of attentional bias, the scene inspection paradigm (SIP), that measures fixation time on alcohol content imbedded in complex scenes. Results As hypothesized, the proportion of inhibitory failures on the ABBA task was significantly higher following alcohol images compared to neutral images. Correlational analyses showed that heightened attentional bias on the SIP was associated with greater response activation following alcohol images on the ABBA task. Conclusions These findings suggest that alcohol stimuli serve to disrupt mechanisms of behavioral control, and that heightened attentional bias is associated with greater disruption of control mechanisms following alcohol images.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)489-498
Number of pages10
Issue number3
StatePublished - Aug 2012

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Acknowledgment This research was supported by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism Grants R01 AA018274, R01 AA012895, and F31 AA018584.


  • Alcohol
  • Attentional bias
  • Behavioral control
  • Inhibition
  • Response activation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pharmacology


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