Executive Functioning in Alcohol Use Studies: A Brief Review of Findings and Challenges in Assessment
Anne M. Day,
Christopher W. Kahler,
David C. Ahern,
Uraina S. Clark.
There is a wealth of research about the links between executive functioning (EF) and alcohol use. However,
difficulty may arise in interpreting findings because of the variability between studies regarding the specific components
of EF measured, as well as the variability of tasks used to examine each EF construct. The current article considers each
of these problems within the context of a literature review that focuses on two topics: (1) the efficacy of EF in predicting
alcohol use and alcohol-related consequences, and (2) the effect of acute alcohol intoxication on EF task performance. An
additional goal was to identify and describe commonly used EF measures with the intention of providing alcohol
researchers information on the assessment of different EF domains. Our findings indicate that there is strong evidence
supporting a relation between EF difficulties (particularly response inhibition and information updating) and alcohol use,
with additional evidence of a significant interaction between EF and implicit associations on alcohol use. In contrast,
research supporting a link between set shifting abilities and later alcohol use is scarce. Additionally, this review found
evidence of alcohol acutely affecting many EF processes (particularly response inhibition). Overall, there is a need to
replicate these findings with commonly used EF tasks (versus developing numerous tasks within individual laboratories)
to better advance our understanding of the relation between EF and alcohol use.
Keywords: Acute, alcohol, assessment, deficits, executive functioning, inhibition, shifting, updating.
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