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Alcoholism, clinical and experimental research

Effects of Age and Acute Moderate Alcohol Administration on Neurophysiology During Simulated Driving.


PMID 27739091

Abstract

Driver age and blood alcohol concentration are both important factors in predicting driving risk; however, little is known regarding the joint import of these factors on neural activity following socially relevant alcohol doses. We examined age and alcohol effects on brain oscillations during simulated driving, focusing on 2 region-specific frequency bands implicated in task performance and attention: parietal alpha power (PAP; 8 to 12xa0Hz) and frontal theta power (FTP; 4 to 7xa0Hz). Participants included 80 younger (aged 25 to 35xa0years) and 40 older (aged 55 to 70xa0years) community-dwelling, moderate drinkers. Participants consumed placebo, low, or moderate doses of alcohol designed to achieve target peak breath alcohol concentrations of 0, 0.04, or 0.065xa0g/dl, respectively. Electrophysiological measures were recorded during engagement in a simulated driving task involving 4 scenarios of varied environmental complexity. A main effect of age was detected in FTP, but neither an alcohol effect nor interactions were observed. For PAP, an age-by-alcohol interaction was detected. Relative to placebo controls, older and younger participants receiving low-dose (0.04xa0g/dl) alcohol evinced divergent PAP alterations, with a pattern of higher power among older participants and lower power among younger participants. This interaction was noted across the varied environmental contexts. These findings are consistent with the hypothesis that compared with younger individuals, older drivers may be differentially susceptible to alcohol effects. While these age-by-alcohol interactions in neural activity are provocative, further investigation exploring the mechanisms and behavioral correlates of these effects will be crucial in determining their behavioral impact.

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