Alcohol intoxication at 0.06 and 0.10% blood alcohol concentration changes segmental body movement coordination

Exp Brain Res. 2010 Apr;202(2):431-43. doi: 10.1007/s00221-009-2150-5. Epub 2010 Jan 14.


Alcohol intoxication is the cause of many falls requiring emergency care. The control of upright standing balance is complex and comprises contributions from several partly independent mechanisms like coordination, feedback and feedforward control and adaptation. Analysis of the segmental body movement coordination offers one option to detect the severity of balance problems. The study aims were (1) to investigate whether alcohol intoxication at 0.06 and 0.10% blood alcohol concentration (BAC) affected the segmental movement pattern under unperturbed and perturbed standing; (2) whether alcohol affected the ability for movement pattern adaptation; (3) whether one's own subjective feeling of drunkenness correlated to the movement pattern used. Twenty-five participants (13 women and 12 men, mean age 25.1 years) performed tests involving alcohol intoxication. Body movements were recorded at five locations (ankle, knee, hip, shoulder and head) during quiet standing and pseudorandom pulses of calf muscle vibration for 200 s with eyes closed or open. There was no significant effect of alcohol on the general movement pattern in unperturbed stance or on adaptation. However, when balance was repeatedly perturbed, knee movements became significantly less correlated to other body movements over time at 0.10% BAC and when visual information was unavailable, suggesting that the normal movement pattern could not be maintained for a longer period of time while under 0.10% BAC intoxication. Subjective feelings of drunkenness correlated often with a changed upper body movement pattern but less so with changed knee movements. Thus, an inability to relate drunkenness with changed knee movements may be a contributing factor to falls in addition to the direct effect of alcohol intoxication.

MeSH terms

  • Adaptation, Psychological / drug effects
  • Adaptation, Psychological / physiology*
  • Adult
  • Alcoholic Intoxication / blood
  • Alcoholic Intoxication / physiopathology*
  • Alcoholic Intoxication / psychology
  • Biomechanical Phenomena
  • Central Nervous System Depressants / blood
  • Central Nervous System Depressants / pharmacology
  • Ethanol / blood
  • Ethanol / pharmacology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Motor Activity / drug effects
  • Motor Activity / physiology*
  • Photic Stimulation
  • Physical Stimulation
  • Posture / physiology*
  • Proprioception / drug effects
  • Proprioception / physiology*
  • Psychomotor Performance / drug effects
  • Psychomotor Performance / physiology*
  • Task Performance and Analysis
  • Time Factors
  • Vibration
  • Visual Perception
  • Young Adult


  • Central Nervous System Depressants
  • Ethanol