Effects of Age and Acute Moderate Alcohol Administration on Electrophysiological Correlates of Working Memory Maintenance

Jeff Boissoneault, Ian Frazier, Ben Lewis, Sara Jo Nixon

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Scopus citations


Background: Previous studies suggest older adults may be differentially susceptible to the acute neurobehavioral effects of moderate alcohol intake. To our knowledge, no studies have addressed acute moderate alcohol effects on the electrophysiological correlates of working memory in younger and older social drinkers. This study characterized alcohol-related effects on frontal theta (FTP) and posterior alpha power (PAP) associated with maintenance of visual information during a working memory task. Methods: Older (55 to 70 years of age; n = 51, 29 women) and younger (25 to 35 years of age; n = 70, 39 women) community-dwelling moderate drinkers were recruited for this study. Participants were given either placebo or an active dose targeting breath alcohol concentrations (BrACs) of 0.04 or 0.065 g/dl. Following absorption, participants completed a visual working memory task assessing cue recognition following a 9-s delay. FTP and PAP were determined via Fourier transformation and subjected to 2 (age group) × 3 (dose) × 2 (repeated: working memory task condition) mixed models analysis. Results: In addition to expected age-related reductions in PAP, a significant age group × dose interaction was detected for PAP such that 0.04 g/dl dose level was associated with greater PAP in younger adults but lower PAP in their older counterparts. PAP was lower in older versus younger adults at both active doses. Further mixed models revealed a significant negative association between PAP and working memory efficiency for older adults. No effects of age, dose, or their interaction were noted for FTP. Conclusions: Results bolster the small but growing body of evidence that older adults exhibit differential sensitivity to the neurobehavioral effects of moderate alcohol use. Given the theoretical role of PAP in attentional and working memory function, these findings shed light on the attentional mechanisms underlying effects of acute moderate alcohol on working memory efficiency in older adults.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1874-1883
Number of pages10
JournalAlcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research
Issue number9
StatePublished - Sep 1 2016
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Funding was provided by NIAAA R01 AA019802 (SJN, PI) and F31 AA019862 (JB) and the University of Florida Department of Psychiatry. Special thanks to Dr. Adam Gazzaley for providing working memory task stimuli and parameters, and to Dr. Alfredo Sklar, Layla Lincoln, Lauren Hoffman, and Robert Prather for assistance with data collection and processing. The authors have no conflict of interests to disclose.

Publisher Copyright:
Copyright © 2016 by the Research Society on Alcoholism


  • Aging
  • Alcohol
  • Alpha
  • Moderate Drinking
  • Theta
  • Working Memory


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