On the automaticity of response inhibition in individuals with alcoholism


Background and objectives: Response inhibition is usually considered a hallmark of executive control. However, recent work indicates that stop performance can become associatively mediated ('automatic') over practice. This study investigated automatic response inhibition in sober and recently detoxified individuals with alcoholism..

Methods: We administered to forty recently detoxified alcoholics and forty healthy participants a modified stop-signal task that consisted of a training phase in which a subset of the stimuli was consistently associated with stopping or going, and a test phase in which this mapping was reversed.

Results: In the training phase, stop performance improved for the consistent stop stimuli, compared with control stimuli that were not associated with going or stopping. In the test phase, go performance tended to be impaired for old stop stimuli. Combined, these findings support the automatic inhibition hypothesis. Importantly, performance was similar in both groups, which indicates that automatic inhibitory control develops normally in individuals with alcoholism..

Limitations: This finding is specific to individuals with alcoholism without other psychiatric disorders, which is rather atypical and prevents generalization. Personalized stimuli with a stronger affective content should be used in future studies.

Conclusions: These results advance our understanding of behavioral inhibition in individuals with alcoholism. Furthermore, intact automatic inhibitory control may be an important element of successful cognitive remediation of addictive behaviors..

Keywords: Alcoholism; Automatic response inhibition; Cognitive remediation; Stop-signal task.

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