Excessive alcohol use during a drinking episode (i.e., a binge) contributes to many adverse health and social consequences. Binge drinkers are more likely to drive while intoxicated and to suffer blackouts and hangover. A continued pattern of binge drinking poses immediate health risks (e.g., alcohol poisoning, acute alcoholic hepatitis), and long-term consequences, such as alcohol dependence and liver cirrhosis. Given that even mild doses of alcohol impair cognitive processes that control behavior, it is important to understand how such disturbances also can reduce control over alcohol intake once a drinking episode has begun. The proposed project aims to determine how the inability to curtail alcohol consumption during a drinking episode is linked to alcohol-induced impairment of cognitive processes involved in the self-control and regulation of behavior. The research will examine acute alcohol impairment of cognitive functions in young non-dependent drinkers. The project combines measures of alcohol effects on cognitive inhibitory processes with traditional abuse liability indices based on subjective rewarding effects of the drug and its ability to reinforce self-administration. Studies will determine the degree to which alcohol abuse potential is influenced by two mechanisms of drug action: 1) reward-enhancing effects (i.e., elevation of an approach """"""""go"""""""" mechanism); and 2) impairment of cognitive inhibitory processes (i.e., suppression of an avoidance """"""""stop"""""""" mechanism). Multiple strategies will test the role of acute cognitive impairment in the abuse liability of alcohol. A drug-reinforcement model will test the degree to which preload alcohol doses """"""""prime"""""""" subsequent drug self-administration by impairing inhibitory control processes that regulate behavior. The research also will test an indirect alcohol antagonist drug. caffeine, and an approved medication for alcohol abuse, naltrexone, for their ability to reduce alcohol self-administration by blocking its impairing effects on inhibitory control. The research has several long-term objectives. The findings will provide an understanding of how drinkers' susceptibility to alcohol's acute cognitive-impairing effects can pose an early-onset risk factor for later alcohol dependence by promoting a continued pattern of abusive binge drinking. The research strategies also will provide methods for testing the role of cognitive mechanisms in the treatment efficacy of existing pharmacotherapies. such as naltrexone, as well as some investigational medications that might operate via cognitive mechanisms (e.g., acamprosate). Finally, the proposed experiments will provide initial methods and protocols for studying alcohol use in combination with other drugs of abuse that also disrupt cognitive functions, such as cocaine, for which binge use is also a common pattern of drug-taking.

National Institute of Health (NIH)
National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA)
Research Project (R01)
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Application #
Study Section
Special Emphasis Panel (ZRG1-BBBP-1 (01))
Program Officer
Witt, Ellen
Project Start
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University of Kentucky
Schools of Arts and Sciences
United States
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Roberts, Walter; Milich, Richard; Fillmore, Mark T (2016) The Effects of Preresponse Cues on Inhibitory Control and Response Time in Adults With ADHD. J Atten Disord 20:317-24
Roberts, Walter; Miller, Melissa A; Weafer, Jessica et al. (2014) Heavy drinking and the role of inhibitory control of attention. Exp Clin Psychopharmacol 22:133-40
Weafer, Jessica; Fillmore, Mark T (2013) Acute alcohol effects on attentional bias in heavy and moderate drinkers. Psychol Addict Behav 27:32-41
Miller, Melissa A; Hays, Lon R; Fillmore, Mark T (2012) Lack of tolerance to the disinhibiting effects of alcohol in heavy drinkers. Psychopharmacology (Berl) 224:511-8
Weafer, Jessica; Fillmore, Mark T (2012) Alcohol-related stimuli reduce inhibitory control of behavior in drinkers. Psychopharmacology (Berl) 222:489-98
Weafer, Jessica; Fillmore, Mark T (2012) Comparison of alcohol impairment of behavioral and attentional inhibition. Drug Alcohol Depend 126:176-82
Roberts, Walter; Fillmore, Mark T; Milich, Richard (2012) Drinking to distraction: does alcohol increase attentional bias in adults with ADHD? Exp Clin Psychopharmacol 20:107-17
Roberts, Walter; Milich, Richard; Fillmore, Mark T (2012) Constraints on information processing capacity in adults with ADHD. Neuropsychology 26:695-703
Weafer, Jessica; Fillmore, Mark T (2012) Acute tolerance to alcohol impairment of behavioral and cognitive mechanisms related to driving: drinking and driving on the descending limb. Psychopharmacology (Berl) 220:697-706
Fillmore, Mark T; Weafer, Jessica (2012) Acute tolerance to alcohol in at-risk binge drinkers. Psychol Addict Behav 26:693-702

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