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Drunk decisions: alcohol shifts choice from habitual towards goal-directed control in adolescent intermediate-risk drinkers


Obst, Elisabeth; Schad, Daniel J; Huys, Quentin JM; Sebold, Miriam; Nebe, Stephan; Sommer, Christian; Smolka, Michael N; Zimmermann, Ulrich S (2018). Drunk decisions: alcohol shifts choice from habitual towards goal-directed control in adolescent intermediate-risk drinkers. Journal of Psychopharmacology, 32(8):855-866.

Abstract

Background:
Studies in humans and animals suggest a shift from goal-directed to habitual decision-making in addiction. We therefore tested whether acute alcohol administration reduces goal-directed and promotes habitual decision-making, and whether these effects are moderated by self-reported drinking problems.
Methods:
Fifty-three socially drinking males completed the two-step task in a randomised crossover design while receiving an intravenous infusion of ethanol (blood alcohol level=80 mg%), or placebo. To minimise potential bias by long-standing heavy drinking and subsequent neuropsychological impairment, we tested 18- to 19-year-old adolescents.
Results:
Alcohol administration consistently reduced habitual, model-free decisions, while its effects on goal-directed, model-based behaviour varied as a function of drinking problems measured with the Alcohol Use Disorders Identification Test. While adolescents with low risk for drinking problems (scoring <8) exhibited an alcohol-induced numerical reduction in goal-directed choices, intermediate-risk drinkers showed a shift away from habitual towards goal-directed decision-making, such that alcohol possibly even improved their performance.
Conclusions:
We assume that alcohol disrupted basic cognitive functions underlying habitual and goal-directed decisions in low-risk drinkers, thereby enhancing hasty choices. Further, we speculate that intermediate-risk drinkers benefited from alcohol as a negative reinforcer that reduced unpleasant emotional states, possibly displaying a novel risk factor for drinking in adolescence.

Abstract

Background:
Studies in humans and animals suggest a shift from goal-directed to habitual decision-making in addiction. We therefore tested whether acute alcohol administration reduces goal-directed and promotes habitual decision-making, and whether these effects are moderated by self-reported drinking problems.
Methods:
Fifty-three socially drinking males completed the two-step task in a randomised crossover design while receiving an intravenous infusion of ethanol (blood alcohol level=80 mg%), or placebo. To minimise potential bias by long-standing heavy drinking and subsequent neuropsychological impairment, we tested 18- to 19-year-old adolescents.
Results:
Alcohol administration consistently reduced habitual, model-free decisions, while its effects on goal-directed, model-based behaviour varied as a function of drinking problems measured with the Alcohol Use Disorders Identification Test. While adolescents with low risk for drinking problems (scoring <8) exhibited an alcohol-induced numerical reduction in goal-directed choices, intermediate-risk drinkers showed a shift away from habitual towards goal-directed decision-making, such that alcohol possibly even improved their performance.
Conclusions:
We assume that alcohol disrupted basic cognitive functions underlying habitual and goal-directed decisions in low-risk drinkers, thereby enhancing hasty choices. Further, we speculate that intermediate-risk drinkers benefited from alcohol as a negative reinforcer that reduced unpleasant emotional states, possibly displaying a novel risk factor for drinking in adolescence.

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Additional indexing

Item Type:Journal Article, refereed, original work
Communities & Collections:03 Faculty of Economics > Department of Economics
Dewey Decimal Classification:330 Economics
Uncontrolled Keywords:Computer-assisted Alcohol Infusion System, habitual learning, model-free and model-based decision-making, two-stage Markov decision task, subjective response to ethanol, drinking problems, real-life drinking behaviour
Language:English
Date:August 2018
Deposited On:02 Aug 2019 09:05
Last Modified:25 Sep 2019 00:40
Publisher:Sage Publications Ltd.
ISSN:0269-8811
OA Status:Closed
Publisher DOI:https://doi.org/10.1177/0269881118772454

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