Drink alcohol and dim the lights: the impact of cognitive deficits on medial frontal cortex function.
Yeung N., Ralph J., Nieuwenhuis S.
Scalp electroencephalogram (EEG) recordings indicate that regions in the medial frontal cortex (MFC) are active following errors. Alcohol consumption reduces this error-related activity, perhaps suggesting that alcohol disrupts the operation of an error-monitoring system in the MFC. However, it could also be that alcohol consumption affects the MFC only indirectly, by impairing stimulus processing and thus making errors harder to detect. This interpretation leads to the prediction that stimulus degradation should likewise reduce error-related activity in the MFC. To test this hypothesis, behavioral and EEG data were collected as participants performed a speeded response task with either bright or very dim stimuli. The results using dim stimuli replicated the observed effects of alcohol consumption-with slowed responses accompanied by reduced error-related MFC activity. The sensitivity of the MFC to disrupted processing elsewhere in the brain suggests complications in interpreting evidence of disturbed MFC function.