Dose-related effects of ethanol on visual sustained attention and event-related potentials

John W. Rohrbaugh, June M. Stapleton, Raja Parasuraman, Elizabeth A. Zubovic, Henri W. Frowein, Jerald L. Varner, Bryon Adinoff, Elizabeth A. Lane, Michael J. Eckardt, Markku Linnoila

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

64 Scopus citations


The effects of acute ethanol intoxication on visual sustained attention were investigated in male social drinkers. Four doses ranging from 0 (placebo) to 1.05 g/kg lean body weight, with periodic maintenance dosing of 0.12 g/kg, were given in separate sessions. The task required subjects to monitor a series of blurred digits presented singly at a rate of one per sec and to respond to occasional (p=0.25) target digits with a speeded button press. Detection performance deteriorated as a function of both dose and time on task. In addition, the factors of dose and time on task interacted to produce a more rapid performance decrement under the higher doses. Early event-related potential (ERP) components (N1 and P2) were not greatly affected, suggesting that the performance decrement reflects central rather than peripheral factors. Later components related to cognitive appraisal processes (N2, P3), in contrast, varied in both amplitude and latency. Ethanol yielded dose-related delays in N2 and P3 latencies, which paralleled reaction time increases. The amplitude of N2 also decreased over time on task, and P3 amplitude decreased both as a function of dose and time on task. ERP and performance data were interpreted as demonstrating an adverse effect of ethanol on central processing capacity.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)293-300
Number of pages8
Issue number4
StatePublished - Jan 1 1987


  • Ethanol intoxication
  • Event-related potentials
  • Sustained attention
  • Vigilance

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health(social science)
  • Biochemistry
  • Toxicology
  • Neurology
  • Behavioral Neuroscience


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