A neurophysiological and behavioural assessment of interventions targeting attention bias and self-control in binge drinking.
Degree GrantorUniversity of Canterbury
Degree NameMaster of Arts
Attention bias modification (ABM) can decrease the selective visual attention paid to alcohol-related cues shown by a variety of drinkers, but is hindered by its inability to decrease craving. To address this shortcoming, an intervention to decrease alcohol craving by increasing sense of control was proposed as a complement to ABM. The current study aimed to investigate the effects of two such brief interventions administered singly or in combination, with the hypothesis that the combination would be more effective than either intervention alone. ABM involved a visual dot-probe task and sense of control training applied the intervention elements of choice, goal setting, information enhancement and reinforcement to simple cognitive tasks. Participants were a sample of 41 binge drinkers, recruited as an at-risk drinking group, and 10 non-binge drinkers. Binge drinkers were defined using a binge score, measuring drinking speed, number of times being drunk in the past 6 months, and percentage of times getting drunk while drinking. The binge drinkers received either ABM, sense of control training, both interventions, or no intervention, and were compared with non-binge drinkers who received no intervention. Groups were assessed on primary dependent variables of change in alcohol attention bias (measured in a visual dotprobe task, behaviourally and neurophysiologically with cue-elicited ERPs), change in alcohol craving, and alcohol consumption. Binge drinkers showed a non-significant trend for higher alcohol attention bias scores than non-binge drinkers. ABM had no effect on binge drinkers’ behavioural or electrophysiological markers of alcohol attention bias. Sense of control training did not increase personal sense of control, failing to replicate previous reports, but showed some evidence of a protective effect against decreased task accuracy and against increased alcohol craving. Binge drinkers receiving the combined intervention consumed less alcohol in a bogus taste test than participants who received no intervention. Conclusions about the suitability of ABM for binge drinkers should be reserved for future investigations using binge drinking samples showing baseline attention bias, perhaps older participants with a longer history of binge drinking, but there is some support for the use of a combined intervention to decrease alcohol consumption. The findings also suggest the need for more diverse accounts of binge drinking that carefully consider the extent and duration of the drinking pattern.