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Why drunk drivers may get behind the wheel
Date:8/17/2010

t we have from this study is that unlike basic functions that are commonly studied in alcohol research such as motor speed and information processing speed, executive functions don't recover as quickly." Snyder continues, "The subjective feeling that you are drunk does recover more quickly. This explains why so many individuals feel subjectively that they are able to get into a car and be able to drive and feel safe. But that subjective impression does not mesh with the actual recovery in terms of higher order executive functions."

In this study, individuals were asked to consume alcoholic drinks over an 8-hour period to bring their BAC up to 0.10 percent and then to return to a normal BAC. Throughout the ascending and descending limbs of the BAC curve they were asked to perform a hidden maze learning test on a touch-screen computer. Under normal conditions without alcohol, healthy young individuals normally would make very few mistakes in the maze -- the mistakes are indicative of a failure to follow simple rules that they are taught. The researchers noted that these errors increased dramatically with rising BAC levels, and their level of propensity to break the simple rules of the test did not decline as rapidly as the subjective feeling of drunkenness.

Snyder says, "It's important to know that most healthy normal young adults show one or none of these "rule break" errors at all. As people become increasingly drunk, we see a very dramatic increase in these errors on the test, and the recovery of the underlying cognitive impairments that lead to these errors is slower, and more closely tied to the actual blood alcohol concentration, than the more rapid reduction in participants' subjective feeling of drunkenness." This type of cognitive functioning is important for driving skills and making judgments in terms of traveling through intersections or changing lanes when driving.

Snyder and the researchers conclude that because the subjective
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Contact: Nancy Cawley Jean
njean@lifespan.org
Lifespan
Source:Eurekalert  

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