Effects of low-level alcohol use on cognitive interference: An fMRI study in young adults
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Alcohol consumption is widely known to adversely affect human health. Its neuropathology is largely evident in the cerebellum and frontal lobes, particularly in the immature brains of adolescents and young adults. It may also have a long-lasting impact on executive functioning. The Ottawa Prenatal Prospective Study (OPPS) has followed participants over 20 years, from birth to young adulthood, and has collected data on potentially confounding lifestyle variables, such as prenatal drug exposure and current drug use. The present study investigated the neural activity of 29 young adults from the OPPS using fMRI. The main objective was to discover the impact of regular low-level alcohol consumption on the cognitive interference of these participants, as they performed a Counting Stroop task. Results indicated that, despite a lack of performance differences, young adults who use alcohol on a regular basis differ significantly from non-users with respect to their neural activity as they perform this task. Areas that were significantly more activated in users compared to non-users included the cerebellum, thalamus, fusiform gyrus, prefrontal cortex, and precuneus. The observed activity suggests a significant impact of early alcohol use on neurocognitive functioning despite relatively low levels of alcohol consumption.