Alcohol intoxication alters cognitive skills mediated by frontal and temporal brain regions

Brain Cogn. 2014 Mar;85:271-6. doi: 10.1016/j.bandc.2013.12.010. Epub 2014 Jan 31.


Alcohol intoxication affects frontal and temporal brain areas and may functionally impair cognitive processes mediated by these regions. This study examined this hypothesis by testing the effects of alcohol on sustained attention, impulsivity, and verbal memory. Sober and placebo control groups were used to distinguish pharmacological from expectancy effects of alcohol. One hundred nine university students were assigned to an alcohol (low, medium, or high dose), placebo or sober group. Moderate and high doses of alcohol impaired all cognitive measures. A gender effect was revealed in that alcohol impaired sustained attention in males, but not females. Both sustained attention and verbal memory exhibited a U-shaped pattern, in that the medium-dose alcohol group showed the greatest impairment. This study adds to knowledge about the effects of alcohol intoxication on frontally- and temporally-mediated cognitive function. These findings have specific relevance for heavy-drinking undergraduate populations, particularly in light of the fact that repeated alcohol administration produces persistent changes in brain neurocircuitry.

Keywords: Cognition; Ethanol; Gender differences; Intoxication.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Alcoholic Intoxication / psychology*
  • Attention / drug effects*
  • Cognition / drug effects*
  • Ethanol / toxicity*
  • Female
  • Frontal Lobe / drug effects
  • Humans
  • Impulsive Behavior*
  • Male
  • Memory / drug effects*
  • Sex Factors
  • Temporal Lobe / drug effects
  • Young Adult


  • Ethanol