Do daily fluctuations in inhibitory control predict alcohol consumption? An ecological momentary assessment study

  • A. Jones
  • B. Tiplady
  • K. Houben
  • C. Nederkoorn
  • M. Field


Deficient inhibitory control is predictive of alcohol consumption in the laboratory, however little is known about this relationship in naturalistic, real-world settings. In the present study we implemented ecological momentary assessment methods to investigate the relationship between inhibitory control and alcohol consumption in the real world. Heavy drinkers who were motivated to reduce their alcohol consumption (N = 100) were loaned a smartphone which administered a Stop Signal task twice per day at random intervals between 10 am and 6 pm for two weeks. Each day, participants also recorded their planned and actual alcohol consumption and their subjective craving and mood. We hypothesised that daily fluctuations in inhibitory control (Stop Signal Reaction Time) would predict alcohol consumption, over and above planned consumption and craving. Multilevel modelling demonstrated that daily alcohol consumption was predicted by planned consumption (B = .818, p < .01) and craving (B = .021, p < .01), but inhibitory control did not predict any additional variance in alcohol consumption. However, supplementary analyses demonstrated that the magnitude of the change in inhibitory control over the course of the day was a significant predictor of alcohol consumption on that day (B = .008, p < .01), after controlling for planned consumption and craving. These findings demonstrate that short-term fluctuations in inhibitory control predict alcohol consumption, which suggests that transient fluctuations in inhibition may be a risk factor for heavy drinking episodes.
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