Evaluating the Effect of Age on Cognitive Control Amongst Moderate Drinkers
Alexia Brown, Kathryn Yachnis, David Jabech, Madi Mulcahy, Andrew Moore, Ben Lewis, Sara Jo Nixon
Dr. Sara Jo Nixon
College of Medicine
Cognitive control is a process of regulating thoughts and actions towards goal-directed behaviors. The current work uses the Flanker Task to examine the effect of age and past moderate drinking in younger and older adults on cognitive control abilities. We hypothesize that both participants in the older age group and heavier, moderate drinkers will be associated with poorer performance on the Flanker, and that older adults who also drink more heavily will have the largest deficits of any group. Nineteen participants were recruited into older (m = 70.4 yrs) and younger (m = 29.7 yrs) groups of moderate, current drinkers. For the Flanker, participants indicate the direction a center arrow is pointed while flanked by four additional arrows (two on either side) in either congruent or incongruent directions. In this analysis, we used reaction time (RT), accuracy, and efficiency ratio (ER) to measure response inhibition. Current levels of the participant’s drinking were determined by a review of drinking patterns over the previous month. As expected, there was a significant difference in RT between age groups across all trials (p = .017). There was not a significant difference between ERs with respect to age groups (p = .107), nor was there a significant difference between mean accuracy (p = .760). There was no difference between age groups in terms of drinks per day (p = .938). There were no significant correlations between drinks per day and RT (r = .009, p = .970), accuracy (r = -.029, p = .905), or ER (r = .028, p = .911). As expected, older adults had slower RT than younger participants; however, there were no relationships between drinking levels and performance. The failure to observe alcohol-related effects may be due to the small sample size and/or the limited drinking ranges. Thus, future research could include a larger number of participants and expand the sample to include both very low and heavy drinkers.
To comment below, please sign in with Facebook or Google (using your ufl account) by clicking the little round icons to the right. If you decide, you can post as a guest by entering name and email below, but will lose some features. You can also subscribe to a students page to get updates on comments!