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Current Drug Abuse Reviews


ISSN (Print): 1874-4737
ISSN (Online): 1874-4745

Executive Functioning in Alcohol Use Studies: A Brief Review of Findings and Challenges in Assessment

Author(s): Anne M. Day, Christopher W. Kahler, David C. Ahern and Uraina S. Clark

Volume 8, Issue 1, 2015

Page: [26 - 40] Pages: 15

DOI: 10.2174/1874473708666150416110515

Price: $65


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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