Alcohol-induced fragmentary blackouts : associated memory processes and neural correlates



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Alcohol-induced blackouts, or periods of anterograde amnesia without loss of consciousness, were a diagnostic indicator in Jellinek’s (1952) theory of alcoholism and have been correlated with alcohol use problems (Campbell & Hodgins, 1993; Goodwin, Crane, & Guze, 1969; Ryback, 1970; Tarter & Schneider, 1976). Other findings suggest that blackouts are a warning sign of problem drinking, but not a predictor of alcohol use disorders (Anthenelli, Klein, Tsuang, Smith, & Schuckit, 1994). Most published research on blackouts focuses on cognitive deficits among older alcohol-dependent adults, yet recent research indicates prevalence rates for blackouts as high as 50% among college students (White, Jamieson-Drake, & Swartzwelder, 2002). In addition, young adults who reported experiencing a blackout were later told that they had vandalized property, driven a car, or engaged in other risky behaviors without remembering (Buelow & Koeppel, 1995). Despite their high prevalence and associated negative consequences, relatively little is known about alcohol-induced blackouts or their neural, social, and behavioral correlates among non-dependent populations. The current research explored individual variation in memory functioning under sober and intoxicated conditions and alcohol’s effects on neural activation during memory processes.