Persistence of attentional bias toward alcohol-related stimuli in intoxicated social drinkers

Melissa A. Miller, Mark T. Fillmore

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

35 Scopus citations


Background: Although attentional bias to alcohol-related stimuli has been identified as a potentially important factor in initiating a drinking episode, little is known about whether it persists once drinking has begun. Chief among the measures of attentional bias is the visual probe task, which requires the ability to respond quickly and fixate on objects. Alcohol is well recognized for impairing both of these abilities, which could undermine the reliable detection of attentional bias in intoxicated individuals. The purpose of the present study was to determine if attentional bias toward alcohol-related images can still be observed under alcohol even at blood alcohol concentrations (BACs) sufficient to disrupt reaction time (RT) and basic ocular functions. Methods: The present study employed a within-subject design to test the effects of three doses of alcohol (0.0. g/kg, 0.32. g/kg, and 0.64. g/kg) on attentional bias toward alcohol-related images in a group of 20 social drinkers using a visual probe task. Alcohol's effects on simple RT and ocular functions were also assessed. Results: Attentional bias was observed by participants' fixations toward alcohol-related stimuli following alcohol administration. Alcohol also impaired oculomotor functions as evident by decreased accuracy and speed of saccades. Discussion: The findings indicate that attentional bias can be detected even at BACs above 80. mg/100. ml that disrupt oculomotor functions that are considered fundamental to visual search tasks.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)184-189
Number of pages6
JournalDrug and Alcohol Dependence
Issue number2-3
StatePublished - Sep 1 2011

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This research was supported by grants R01 AA012895 and R01 AA018274 from the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism . The content is solely the responsibility of the author and does not necessarily represent the official views on the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism or the National Institutes of Health. These institutes had no further role in the study design; in the collection, analysis and interpretation of data; in the writing of the report; or in the decision to submit the paper for publication.


  • Alcohol
  • Attentional bias
  • Visual probe task

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Toxicology
  • Pharmacology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health
  • Pharmacology (medical)


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