Acute alcohol intoxication and cognitive functioning

J. B. Peterson, J. Rothfleisch, P. D. Zelazo, R. O. Pihl

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

245 Scopus citations


Acute alcohol intoxication produces changes in the cognitive functioning of normal individuals. These changes appear similar prima facie to those exhibited by individuals who sustain prefrontal lobe damage during adulthood. In order to test the validity of this observation, and to control for the confounding effects of expectancy, 72 male subjects were administered a battery of neuropsychological tests, within the context of a balanced-placebo design. Each subject received one of three widely different doses of alcohol. Analysis of the results of the cognitive test battery demonstrated that a high dose of alcohol detrimentally affects a number of functions associated with the prefrontal and temporal lobes, including planning, verbal fluency, memory and complex motor control. Expectancy does not appear to play a significant role in determining this effect. The implications of this pattern of impairment are analyzed and discussed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)114-122
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Studies on Alcohol
Issue number2
StatePublished - 1990
Externally publishedYes


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