Jääskeläinen, I. P., Schröger, E., & Näätänen, R. (1999). Electrophysiological indices of acute effects of ethanol on involuntary attention shifting. Psychopharmacology, 141(1), 16-21.

Electrophysiological indices of acute effects of ethanol on involuntary attention shifting

Dose-related effects of ethanol (placebo, 0.30, and 0.60 g/kg) on behavioral and event-related brain potential (ERP) indices of involuntary attention shifting of audition were investigated. ERPs were recorded from 11 healthy social drinkers during a forced-choice reaction-time (RT) task. Subjects were presented with 100 and 200 ms tones (P = 0.50 for each) with a constant inter-stimulus interval (ISI) of 1 s. The task was to press either of two buttons, depending on the tone duration. The majority of the tones ("standards") were of 700 Hz (P = 0.82). Occasionally, however, the frequency of the tones changed, deviating either slightly (750 Hz), moderately (900 Hz), or widely (1200 Hz; P = 0.06 for each) from the standard frequency. In accordance with previous findings, the task-irrelevant frequency deviations prolonged the RT. This RT prolongation was attenuated by alcohol with the 0.3 g/kg dose, thus suggesting less distraction by irrelevant stimulus deviations under the influence of ethanol. Furthermore, the P3a, reflecting involuntary attention shifting, was suppressed by alcohol even with the 0.3 g/kg dose. These findings demonstrate a detrimental effect of alcohol on involuntary attention shifting, evident with doses considerably smaller than previously described, and still juridically acceptable in road traffic in most countries.


Cognitive and Biological Psychology

University of Leipzig
Faculty of Life Sciences
Institute of Psychology
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Dagmar Schrödl
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Email: dagmar dot schroedl at uni-leipzig dot de

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