The Effect of Non-specific Response Inhibition Training on Alcohol Consumption: an Intervention

  • A.L. Bartsch
  • B. Mullan
  • K. Houben


Background: Excessive alcohol consumption places individuals at risk of acquiring harm from alcohol-related disease and injury (Jennison, 2004). A number of studies have reduced alcohol consumption by manipulating the neurocognitive processes underlying self-control ability and specifically, by training response inhibition (Houben, Havermans, Nederkoorn, & Jansen, 2012; Houben, Nederkoorn, Wiers, & Jansen, 2011; Jones & Field, 2013). The rationale for this approach is that response inhibition training leads to an increase in self-control strength, which allows individuals to control the urge to drink alcohol excessively and stay within moderate levels of consumption. The aim of the present study was to clarify if non-specific response inhibition training could improve response inhibition and reduce alcohol consumption. Method: Sixty first-year students were randomly assigned to one of two conditions (inhibition, disinhibition) in which they completed one stop-signal task a day, for four consecutive days. Participants in the inhibition condition completed a stop-signal task with a high target density (50% stop-signals) and were instructed to inhibit their response at the sound of a stop-signal. Participants in the disinhibition condition completed a stop-signal task with a lower target density (25% stop-signals) and were instructed to never inhibit their response. Before and after the intervention, participants completed measures of response inhibition (stop-signal task, stroop task), and alcohol consumption (timeline follow-back questionnaire). Additionally, alcohol consumption was measured after one month and all parts of the study were completed online. Findings and Discussion: Contrary to the hypotheses, the intervention had no significant effect on response inhibition or alcohol consumption. Future studies could test the effect of the intervention among a population of only binge drinkers and explore the role of factors such as intention and motivation.
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