Influence of Alcohol on Motor Control

Alcohol is considered to be a depressant as it makes the brain functions and functions of the central nervous system slower. It impairs the central nervous system in that brain functioning is delayed. Alcohol also affects the information processing or the cognitive skills as well as hand-eye coordination (psychomotor skills). The more alcohol an individual takes, the more he/she loses control of his or her body functions. Severity of the impairment caused by alcohol use depends on the quantity of alcohol in in the bloodstream. This is based on an individual’s Blood Alcohol Content (BAC) percentage. In this experiment, 0.08% BAC was used to investigate the influence of alcohol on motor control. Alcohol crosses the blood-brain barrier and thus an acute effect of alcohol intoxication is that it negatively affects the motor control.

In the context of a longstanding acknowledgement of alcohol’s impact on general cognitive processing, recent related research has focused more on how alcohol or other substances affect voluntary control and executive functioning in the body. Since the introduction of these studies, much knowledge and incite has been accumulated regarding the psychological underpinnings of motor control and alcohol use. A critical component of adaptive capacity is that alcohol might impair the ability to suppress reflexive impulses.


In this experiment, 23 students from Oregon State University participated. To ensure eligibility, participants were administered with a face valid Drinking Behavior Survey and Medical Screening Questionnaire as well as the Short Michigan Alcoholism Screening test. Grounds for exclusion were reports of an average of more than five drinks per day for male students and more than four drinks for female students. In addition, female students’ participants had to have a negative result on a urine sample pregnancy test. Mean age of the student participating in this experiment was 21.4 years. There were 15 male students and 8 female students.

Method and Materials

Before the experiment was conducted, all participants had a normal or corrected to normal visual acuity and intact color vision as determined by a test with a standard Snellen chart. This experiment was approved by the University. The level of alcohol in blood was just below that constituting to prima facie evidence of alcohol intoxication for driving purposes. This level of alcohol was also above the minimum shown to impair complex psychomotor tasks. The amount of alcohol administered to reach a BAC of 0.80 %, and it was calculated for each student. The calculation was based on weight, height, age, gender, and the reported drinking period.

Precise information was given about the estimated correspondence for the total amount of drink in terms of standard alcohol drinks. BAC was measured before the drinking started so as to ensure a zero baseline. It was also measured at the end of the absorption period (20 minutes), immediately before and immediately after the saccade tasks using an Alco sensor IV. During the control experiment session, the students received the same amounts of liquids of Pepsi. Saccades were recorded by means of an EyeLink2 video based pupil tracing system. The recording system included a high speed video camera positioned below the monitored eye and held in place by head mounted gear. It has a relative spatial resolution of a few minutes of an arch, and its accuracy is better than ⅓ degrees depending on calibration. Viewing was binocular, but eye movements were recorded from the right eye only. Subjects were made to sit is a chair with a viewing distance of 60 cm in front of a nominal 22 inch CRT monitor. The online saccade detector of the eye tracking system was set to detect saccades with amplitude of 0.15 degrees or greater.


After eligibility screening, participants were made to sit comfortably in chairs and the eye tracking equipment was set up for training. Students were familiarized with the calibration routine and the saccade task in real time (20 trials). Determination of beverages to be administered was made. In the first session, saccade amplitudes were taken. The saccade amplitudes from the first session were compared to those in the second session. Data on amplitude was collected to determine if alcohol has an influence on motor control.

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