Effects of Acute Alcohol Intoxication on Executive Functions Controlling Self-Regulated Behavior

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)




Stephen A. Maisto


Acute Alcohol Administration, Executive Function, Inhibition, Self-Regulation, Set-Shifting, Working Memory

Subject Categories



Alcohol consumption may lead to deficits in the executive functions that govern self-regulation. However, the magnitude of these deficits is unknown. The purpose of this experiment was to investigate the acute effects of alcohol on three of the executive functions: inhibition, set-shifting, and working memory. The participants were 75 moderate or heavy drinkers between the ages of 21 and 35 who were randomized into one of three beverage conditions (control, placebo, or 0.65g alcohol dose/kg body weight). Performance on three executive function subcomponents pre- and post- beverage consumption was measured using GoStop, Wisconsin Card Sorting Task, Trail Making Test, and WAIS-III/WAIS-IV Letter Number Sequencing. It was hypothesized that the alcohol consumption group would show a greater decrement in performance compared to the other two groups, which were not predicted to differ from each other. The results showed that the major hypotheses of the study were not supported. One significant interaction was found for working memory; however, this result was the effect of an increase in performance of the control participants as compared to the alcohol and placebo participants. An exploratory analysis was conducted to test whether the three executive functions were related to trait self-regulation. The findings showed that inhibition and set-shifting were significantly related, while no relationship was found for working memory. The findings are discussed and it was concluded that the dose of alcohol given was not sufficient in causing significant impairment of these executive functions.


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