Heightened motor impairment as a protective factor against heavy drinking in individuals with high alcohol-induced disinhibition

Holley C. Allen, Jessica Weafer, Michael J. Wesley, Mark T. Fillmore

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


Background: Behavioral disinhibition and motor impairment are both acutely elevated following alcohol consumption, and individual differences in sensitivity to alcohol-induced increases in these effects are associated with drinking habits. Specifically, high alcohol-induced disinhibition and low motor impairment have been identified as separate markers for alcohol-related problems. This study tested the degree to which alcohol-induced disinhibition and motor impairment jointly predict heavy drinking. We hypothesized that heavier drinkers would exhibit a combination of high sensitivity to alcohol-induced disinhibition and low sensitivity to its motor impairing effect. Methods: Data from three studies were aggregated to comprise a sample of 96 young adults. Participants' motor coordination (grooved pegboard) and behavioral disinhibition (cued go/no-go) were assessed following consumption of 0.65 g/kg alcohol and a placebo during separate sessions. Results: As BAC was ascending, alcohol increased motor impairment and disinhibition compared to placebo. Combined effects at this time of alcohol on motor impairment and disinhibition predicted typical drinking habits. Specifically, a combination of high sensitivity to alcohol's disinhibiting effect and low sensitivity to its motor impairing effect was associated with heavy drinking. As BAC was descending, only reduced sensitivity to motor impairment remained as a predictor of heavy drinking. Conclusions: The findings suggest that although motor impairment following alcohol consumption is associated with certain negative outcomes (e.g., increased risk for physical injury and motor vehicle accidents), such heightened motor impairment from alcohol may actually serve as a protective factor against the excessive drinking that can accompany the disinhibiting effect of alcohol.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)414-424
Number of pages11
JournalAlcohol: Clinical and Experimental Research
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 2023

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2022 Research Society on Alcohol.


  • acute tolerance
  • alcohol sensitivity
  • behavioral disinhibition
  • cued go/no-go
  • motor coordination

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychiatry and Mental health
  • Medicine (miscellaneous)
  • Toxicology
  • General Medicine


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