Alcohol Intoxication Effects on Visual Perception: An fMRI Study

Vince D. Calhoun, David Altschul, Vince McGinty, Regina Shih, David Scott, Edie Sears, Godfrey D. Pearlson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

62 Scopus citations


We examined the effects of two doses of alcohol (EtOH) on functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) activation during a visual perception task. The Motor-Free Visual Perception Test-Revised (MVPT-R) provides measures of overall visual perceptual processing ability. It incorporates different cognitive elements including visual discrimination, spatial relationships, and mental rotation. We used the MVPT-R to study brain activation patterns in healthy controls (1) sober, and (2) at two doses of alcohol intoxication with event-related fMRI. The fMRI data were analyzed using a general linear model approach based upon a model of the time course and a hemodynamic response estimate. Additionally, a correlation analysis was performed to examine dose-dependent amplitude changes. With regard to alcohol-free task-related brain activation, we replicate our previous finding in which SPM group analysis revealed robust activation in visual and visual association areas, frontal eye field (FEF)/dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (DLPFC), and the supplemental motor area (SMA). Consistent with a previous study of EtOH and visual stimulation, EtOH resulted in a dose-dependent decrease in activation amplitude over much of the visual perception network and in a decrease in the maximum contrast-to-noise ratio (in the lingual gyrus). Despite only modest behavior changes (in the expected direction), significant dose-dependent activation increases were observed in insula, DLPFC, and precentral regions, whereas dose-dependent activation decreases were observed in anterior and posterior cingulate, precuneus, and middle frontal areas. Some areas (FEF/DLPFC/SMA) became more diffusely activated (i.e., increased in spatial extent) at the higher dose. Alcohol, thus, appears to have both global and local effects upon the neural correlates of the MVPT-R task, some of which are dose dependent.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)15-26
Number of pages12
JournalHuman Brain Mapping
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2004
Externally publishedYes


  • Alcohol
  • Brain
  • Functional
  • Visual perception
  • fMRI

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Anatomy
  • Radiological and Ultrasound Technology
  • Radiology Nuclear Medicine and imaging
  • Neurology
  • Clinical Neurology


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