Effects of alcohol hangover on attentional resources during a verbal memory/psychomotor tracking dual attention task

Elizabeth Ayre, Sarah Benson, Harriet Garrisson, Katherine H.M. Cox, Joris C. Verster, Andrew Scholey*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Background: Alcohol hangover (AH) is associated with impaired attention and memory performance. However, whether this effect is related to reduced attentional resources remains unclear. Aims: A dual-attention paradigm was employed to assess the effects of AH on attentional resources, delayed memory recognition, and the interaction between attentional load and AH. Mental effort and perceived performance during AH and control conditions were also assessed. Methods: A seminaturalistic, crossover design was used. In total, 25 healthy social drinkers aged 18–35 years, visited the laboratory following a typical night out drinking (Hangover condition) and after alcohol abstinence (control) between 8:30 am and 12:30 pm, with conditions counterbalanced. Attentional load was manipulated via the presence (dual attention) or absence of psychomotor tracking during verbal memory encoding. Perceived mental effort and performance were measured using the NASA-TLX. Participants’ recollected alcohol consumption was used to compute estimated blood alcohol level (eBAC). Results: Compared with the control visit, AH was associated with reduced recognition accuracy (particularly more false negatives), higher “tracking costs” (poorer accuracy) in the dual attention condition, increased ratings of “mental demand,” “effort,” and “frustration,” and lower ratings of task performance. There was also a significant main effect of attentional load with poorer recognition accuracy and response time in the dual attention condition. There were no significant interaction effects between hangover and attentional load. Conclusion: These findings suggest that reduced attentional resources contribute to the cognitive deficits associated with AH including impaired memory consolidation. They further suggest that while hungover, participants are aware of these deficits but are unable to compensate.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2695-2704
Issue number8
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2022


  • Alcohol hangover
  • Attention
  • Attentional resources
  • Memory encoding
  • Perceived performance
  • Recognition


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