Wheeling Jesuit University

'Sham' Intoxication Produces Similar Effects To 'Real Intoxication' Study Says

The "perception" of intoxication has a profound effect on the human brain and body. A Wheeling Jesuit University study found that participants had an increase in pain tolerance, anger, confusion and fatigue when participants only "think" they are intoxicated.

"It's a marvel of the human mind and how our attention tends to wander based on 'suggestibility,'" says Dr. Bryan Raudenbush, Director of Undergraduate Research and associate professor of psychology and director undergraduate research at Wheeling Jesuit University in Wheeling, WV. "In the end, we're talking about the age-old placebo effect here."

Dr. Raudenbush and a team of WJU undergraduate students examined the effects of sham intoxication on an individual's cognitive performance. Experimenters utilized the IMPACT software program to ascertain whether sham intoxication affects neurocognitive functions such as memory, brain processing, speed, and reaction time.

Dr. Raudenbush and WJU students Trevor Cessna, Will Esgro, and Ricky Yahn presented the results of the study, Effects of Sham Intoxication on Cognitive Functioning and Performance, during the 2006 Third Annual Undergraduate Research Day, February 1, in the Capitol Rotunda in Charleston, WV.

Dr. Raudenbush notes that past research indicates that alcohol consumption influences human performance, particularly in terms of aggression, cognition, and emotion. However, little research has been performed regarding whether sham intoxication produces similar effects.

In the control session, participants completed questionnaires assessing aggression, personality, and beverage preferences. In the experimental condition, participants consumed forty-eight ounces of non-alcoholic beer. During both conditions, experimenters recorded participant's physiological measurements (heart rate, oxygen saturation, and blood pressure), and participants completed questionnaires related to mood and perceived workload, in addition to performing the neurocognitive function tests. The control and experimental sessions were separated by at least 24 hours.

These results further support the impact of sham intoxication, and general placebo effects on cognitive functioning, says Dr. Raudenbush.

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