Rationale: Although risky decision-making is one of the hallmarks of alcohol use disorders, relatively little is known about the acute psychopharmacological effects of alcohol on decision-making processes. Objective: The present study investigated the acute effects of alcohol on neural mechanisms underlying feedback processing and outcome evaluation during risky decision-making, using event-related brain potentials (ERPs). Methods: ERPs elicited by positive and negative feedback were recorded during performance of a modified version of the Balloon Analogue Risk Task in male participants receiving either a moderate dose of alcohol (0.65 g/kg alcohol; n = 32) or a non-alcoholic placebo beverage (n = 32). Results: Overall, there was no significant difference in the mean number of pumps between the alcohol and the placebo condition. However, when analyzing over time, it was found that the alcohol group made more riskier choices at the beginning of the task than the placebo group. ERPs demonstrated that alcohol consumption did not affect early processing of negative feedback, indexed by the feedback-related negativity. By contrast, alcohol-intoxicated individuals showed significantly reduced P300 amplitudes in response to negative feedback as compared to sober controls, suggesting that more elaborate evaluation to losses was significantly diminished. Conclusions: These results suggest that alcohol consumption does not influence the ability to rapidly evaluate feedback valence, but rather the ability to assign sufficient attention to further process motivationally salient outcomes. Blunted P300 amplitudes may reflect poor integration of feedback across trials, particularly adverse ones. Consequently, alcohol may keep people from effectively predicting the probability of future gains and losses based on their reinforcement history.

Additional Metadata
Keywords Alcohol, Balloon analogue risk task, Decision-making, Event-related potentials, Feedback-related negativity, P300, Risk taking
Persistent URL dx.doi.org/10.1007/s00213-011-2264-x, hdl.handle.net/1765/25979
Journal Psychopharmacology
Euser, A.S, Meel, C.S, Snelleman, M, & Franken, I.H.A. (2011). Acute effects of alcohol on feedback processing and outcome evaluation during risky decision-making: an ERP study. Psychopharmacology, 217(1), 111–125. doi:10.1007/s00213-011-2264-x