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Kyriaki Nikolaou; Hugo Critchley; Theodora Duka
Publisher: Public Library of Science (PLoS)
Journal: PLoS ONE
Languages: English
Types: Article
Subjects: Q, R, Research Article, Science, Medicine
Alcohol impairs inhibitory control, including the ability to terminate an initiated action. While there is increasing knowledge about neural mechanisms involved in response inhibition, the level at which alcohol impairs such mechanisms remains poorly understood. Thirty-nine healthy social drinkers received either 0.4 g/kg or 0.8 g/kg of alcohol, or placebo, and performed two variants of a Visual Stop-signal task during acquisition of functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) data. The two task variants differed only in their instructions: in the classic variant (VSST), participants inhibited their response to a "Go-stimulus" when it was followed by a "Stop-stimulus". In the control variant (VSST_C), participants responded to the "Go-stimulus" even if it was followed by a "Stop-stimulus". Comparison of successful Stop-trials (Sstop)>Go, and unsuccessful Stop-trials (Ustop)>Sstop between the three beverage groups enabled the identification of alcohol effects on functional neural circuits supporting inhibitory behaviour and error processing. Alcohol impaired inhibitory control as measured by the Stop-signal reaction time, but did not affect other aspects of VSST performance, nor performance on the VSST_C. The low alcohol dose evoked changes in neural activity within prefrontal, temporal, occipital and motor cortices. The high alcohol dose evoked changes in activity in areas affected by the low dose but importantly induced changes in activity within subcortical centres including the globus pallidus and thalamus. Alcohol did not affect neural correlates of perceptual processing of infrequent cues, as revealed by conjunction analyses of VSST and VSST_C tasks. Alcohol ingestion compromises the inhibitory control of action by modulating cortical regions supporting attentional, sensorimotor and action-planning processes. At higher doses the impact of alcohol also extends to affect subcortical nodes of fronto-basal ganglia- thalamo-cortical motor circuits. In contrast, alcohol appears to have little impact on the early visual processing of infrequent perceptual cues. These observations clarify clinically-important effects of alcohol on behaviour.

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