The influence of alcohol on basic motoric and cognitive disinhibition

Alcohol Alcohol. Nov-Dec 2007;42(6):544-51. doi: 10.1093/alcalc/agm073. Epub 2007 Sep 18.


It has been proposed that alcohol weakens control processes, which in turn supports the occurrence of disinhibited behaviours. Two studies were run, in parallel (both with 32 participants) using a between-subject design to investigate any disinhibiting effects of a moderate dose of alcohol (0.6 g/kg compared to placebo), previously found to trigger increased desire for alcohol. Disinhibiting effects were tested on basic motoric and cognitive control processes, using a go/no-go (GNG) and the Stroop task (ST) respectively. Although a higher proportion of participants wanted more alcohol under the alcohol preload (priming effect), this effect was not found to be significant. In the GNG task, correct response latency (RL) decreased from baseline [P = 0.008] while number of incorrect hits increased [P = 0.030] irrespective of treatment, indicating the formation of a habit-like response and motoric disinhibition. Although error rate did not differ between groups, an interaction occurred with regard to erroneous RL: participants under alcohol became quicker, while those under placebo became slower [P = 0.014]. In the ST, those preloaded with alcohol made significantly more errors [P = 0.021] and were quicker to complete the task [P = 0.044] compared with those preloaded with placebo, indicating a strong alcohol effect on cognitive disinhibition. The data suggest that a moderate dose of alcohol, which induces priming to want more alcohol, had disinhibiting effects both on a basic motoric and a cognitive inhibitory task. Thus the idea that priming may be mediated by the disinhibitory effects of alcohol is supported.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Alcohol Drinking / physiopathology
  • Cognition / drug effects*
  • Cognition / physiology
  • Ethanol / administration & dosage*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Motor Skills / drug effects*
  • Motor Skills / physiology
  • Psychomotor Performance / drug effects
  • Psychomotor Performance / physiology
  • Reaction Time / drug effects
  • Reaction Time / physiology


  • Ethanol