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“Free won’t” after a beer or two: chronic and acute effects of alcohol on neural and behavioral indices of intentional inhibition

  • Liu, Yang1, 2
  • van den Wildenberg, Wery P. M.1, 2
  • González, Gorka Fraga3
  • Rigoni, Davide4
  • Brass, Marcel4
  • Wiers, Reinout W.1, 2
  • Ridderinkhof, K. Richard1, 2
  • 1 University of Amsterdam, Nieuwe Achtergracht 129B, Amsterdam, WS, 1018, The Netherlands , Amsterdam (Netherlands)
  • 2 University of Amsterdam, Amsterdam, The Netherlands , Amsterdam (Netherlands)
  • 3 University of Zurich, Zurich, Switzerland , Zurich (Switzerland)
  • 4 Ghent University, Ghent, Belgium , Ghent (Belgium)
Published Article
BMC Psychology
BioMed Central
Publication Date
Jan 07, 2020
DOI: 10.1186/s40359-019-0367-z
Springer Nature


BackgroundResponse inhibition can be classified into stimulus-driven inhibition and intentional inhibition based on the degree of endogenous volition involved. In the past decades, abundant research efforts to study the effects of alcohol on inhibition have focused exclusively on stimulus-driven inhibition. The novel Chasing Memo task measures stimulus-driven and intentional inhibition within the same paradigm. Combined with the stop-signal task, we investigated how alcohol use affects behavioral and psychophysiological correlates of intentional inhibition, as well as stimulus-driven inhibition.MethodsExperiment I focused on intentional inhibition and stimulus-driven inhibition in relation to past-year alcohol use. The Chasing Memo task, the stop-signal task, and questionnaires related to substance use and impulsivity were administered to 60 undergraduate students (18–25 years old). Experiment II focused on behavioral and neural correlates acute alcohol use on performance on the Chasing Memo task by means of electroencephalography (EEG). Sixteen young male adults (21–28 years old) performed the Chasing Memo task once under placebo and once under the influence of alcohol (blood alcohol concentration around 0.05%), while EEG was recorded.ResultsIn experiment I, AUDIT (Alcohol Use Disorder Identification Test) total score did not significantly predict stimulus-driven inhibition or intentional inhibition performance. In experiment II, the placebo condition and the alcohol condition were comparable in terms of behavioral indices of stimulus-driven inhibition and intentional inhibition as well as task-related EEG patterns. Interestingly, a slow negative readiness potential (RP) was observed with an onset of about 1.2 s, exclusively before participants stopped intentionally.ConclusionsThese findings suggest that both past-year increases in risky alcohol consumption and moderate acute alcohol use have limited effects on stimulus-driven inhibition and intentional inhibition. These conclusions cannot be generalized to alcohol use disorder and high intoxication levels. The RP might reflect processes involved in the formation of an intention in general.

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