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Title: Conditioned cognitive and subjective effects of alcohol
Author: Birak, Kulbir Singh
ISNI:       0000 0004 2703 2723
Awarding Body: The University of Birmingham
Current Institution: University of Birmingham
Date of Award: 2009
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Alcohol-related physiological responses, and craving for alcohol, can occur following exposure to stimuli that have previously been associated with the unconditioned effects of alcohol. However, little is known about the extent to which stimuli paired with alcohol can elicit responses related to alcohol's effects on higher-order psychological processes. This thesis investigated two aspects of alcohol-associated conditioned responses in people. First, it tested whether the repeated pairing of alcohol with a novel-flavoured drink would lead to an increase in drink liking due to the drink's association with alcohol's rewarding effects. Second, it tested whether executive cognitiye functioning would be affected by presentation of a conditioned stimulus that was previously paired with alcohol, and whether such a conditioned response would be "drug-like" or "drug-opposite" in direction. A series of experimental studies were carried out pairing alcohol with certain visual, olfactory and taste cues over sessions. It was found that participants who consumed alcohol in a novel drink format or in an alcohol-paired context over repeated sessions developed tolerance to alcohol's disinhibiting effects. Experiments suggested that this tolerance was conditioned, because participants who consumed alcohol in familiar drink formats or in contexts previously associated with alcohol were less impaired than participants who consumed alcohol in novel drink formats or in placebo-paired contexts. Measurements of blood pressure and subjective alertness also exhibited a conditioned compensatory tolerance to alcohol's effects when in an alcohol-familiar format compared to a novel one. However, there was no evidence that the repeated pairing of a novel-flavoured drink with alcohol would lead to conditioned liking for the flavour. Overall, these data suggest that, in regular social drinkers, associatively learnt cues can signal alcohol's effects and cause compensatory functional changes. Such conditioned tolerance would not occur in the absence of the relevant conditioned stimuli, leading perhaps to more disinhibited responding than would be elicited in the presence of those conditioned stimuli.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available