Wheeling Jesuit University

Students' Study Shows Effects of 'Sham' Intoxication

The "perception" of intoxication has a profound effect on the human brain and body, according to research by two Wheeling Jesuit University students.

The students—Trevor Cessna and Ricky Yahn--found that participants in the study had an increase in pain tolerance, anger, confusion and fatigue when participants only "thought" they are intoxicated. The students worked with Dr. Bryan Raudenbush, associate professor of psychology and director undergraduate research at Wheeling Jesuit University in Wheeling, WV.

"It's a marvel of the human mind and how our attention tends to wander based on 'suggestibility. In the end, we're talking about the age-old placebo effect here," says Dr. Raudenbush.

The two 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.

Cessna and Yahn will present the results of the study, Effects of Sham Intoxication on Cognitive Functioning and Performance, during the University’s Seventh Annual Student Research and Scholarship Symposium, April 4, 2006.

“Student-led research opportunities with professors is a hallmark of Wheeling Jesuit,” says Dr. Raudenbush.

Each spring, Wheeling Jesuit University students present the results of their senior year research projects as they take part in the University’s Research and Scholarship Symposium. More than 75 students will present research projects during the 2006 event.

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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