B.C. Banz, J. Wu, D.R. Camenga, L.C. Mayes, M.J. Crowley, F.E. Vaca

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Pages: 63-72

Background: Drinking consequences can be immediate (e.g., blackouts) and/or delayed and persist after intoxication (e.g., differences in neural response during attention processing). However, it is unknown if attention differences related to drinking history translate to performing complex behaviors (e.g., driving) or high-risk behaviors while driving. We examined the relationship between recent drinking and drinking-related symptoms and attention processing, with and without the load of driving simulation. Methods: Participants: Twenty-six young adults (18-27 y/o (10=men)) were enrolled. Drinking Measures: Two measures were used to classify drinking severity; report of binge-drinking (BD) in the last 30-days (No-BD, BD), and the number of drinking-related symptoms (e.g., blackouts) in the last 6-months (reporting ≤1 occurrence of drinking-related symptoms (LOW), reporting ≥2 occurrences (HIGH)). Driving Simulation: Participants drove a scenario in a miniSim® driving simulator (LOAD) and sat in the simulator, parked for the No-LOAD condition. Selective Auditory Attention Task: Participants responded to a target auditory tone in a specified ear, completed in both the LOAD and No-LOAD conditions. Neural Response: Event-related potentials (P2, P3) were used to evaluate attention processing across LOAD and No-LOAD conditions for attended and unattended stimuli. Results: BD group P3 amplitudes were significantly larger than the No-BD group in the No-LOAD-attend condition (F(1, 19)=4.44, p=.05). There was a significant interaction (F(1, 19)=4.71, p=.04) for P3 when comparing load and attention conditions across the BD groups. During the LOAD-attend condition, P2 amplitudes were significantly larger in the HIGH-symptom group compared to the LOW-symptom group (F(1, 19)=5.4, p=.03). Conclusions: Our data show relationships between recent BD, number of drinking-related symptoms, and the neural correlates of attention processing which may translate to limitations in secondary task engagement during driving simulation while sober. Our data hold important implications for distracted driving and crash risks among sober young drivers with a history of heavy drinking.
Keywords: driving simulation; alcohol; young adults; electrophysiology; attention

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