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Detecting impairment: Sensitive cognitive measures of dose-related acute alcohol intoxication


Cash, C and Peacock, A and Barrington, H and Sinnett, N and Bruno, R, Detecting impairment: Sensitive cognitive measures of dose-related acute alcohol intoxication, Journal of Psychopharmacology, 29, (4) pp. 436-446. ISSN 0269-8811 (2015) [Refereed Article]

Copyright Statement

Copyright 2015 The Authors

DOI: doi:10.1177/0269881115570080


The cognitive impairment that results from acute alcohol intoxication is associated with considerable safety risks. Other psychoactive substances, such as medications, pose a similar risk to road and workplace safety. However, there is currently no legal limit for operating vehicles or working while experiencing drug-related impairment. The current study sought to identify a brief cognitive task sensitive to a meaningful degree of impairment from acute alcohol intoxication to potentially stand as a reference from which to quantify impairment from other similar substances. A placebo-controlled single-blind crossover design was employed to determine the relative sensitivity of four commonly-administered cognitive tasks (Compensatory Tracking Task, Digit Symbol Substitution Test, Brief Stop Signal Task and Inspection Time Task) to alcohol-related impairment in male social drinkers at ~0.05% ascending breath alcohol concentration (BrAC), ~0.08% peak BrAC and 0.05% descending BrAC. The Inspection Time Task was identified as the most sensitive task, detecting a medium to large magnitude increase in impairment (g ≈ 0.60) at 0.05% ascending and descending BrAC, and a large magnitude effect size (g = 0.80) at 0.08% peak BrAC. The remaining tasks failed to demonstrate sensitivity to dose-dependent and limb-dependent changes in alcohol-induced impairment. The Inspection Time Task was deemed the most sensitive task for screening alcohol-related impairment based on the present results. Confirmation of equivalence with other drug-related impairment and sensitivity to alcohol-induced impairment in real-world settings should be established in future research.

Item Details

Item Type:Refereed Article
Keywords:ethanol, ethanol/pharmacology, cognition/drug Effects, dose–response relationship, drug, young adult, male, screening, drug abuse, attention, psychomotor performance
Research Division:Psychology
Research Group:Biological psychology
Research Field:Behavioural neuroscience
Objective Division:Health
Objective Group:Public health (excl. specific population health)
Objective Field:Public health (excl. specific population health) not elsewhere classified
UTAS Author:Cash, C (Miss Caitlin Cashion)
UTAS Author:Peacock, A (Miss Amy Peacock)
UTAS Author:Barrington, H (Miss Helen Barrington)
UTAS Author:Sinnett, N (Mr Nicholas Sinnett)
UTAS Author:Bruno, R (Associate Professor Raimondo Bruno)
ID Code:98545
Year Published:2015
Web of Science® Times Cited:6
Deposited By:Psychology
Deposited On:2015-02-18
Last Modified:2017-11-07

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