Working Memory Training to Reduce Alcohol Consumption

Reduce DrinkingDutch scientists have found that working memory training can reduce drinking for problem drinkers. The researchers from Maastricht University in the Netherlands concluded that working memory training may be an effective strategy to reduce drinking because it increases control over automatic impulses to drink alcohol.

Under the direction of Katrijn Houben, the team recruited problem drinkers (identified using the Alcohol Use Disorders Identification Test or AUDIT test) and divided them into two groups — the first group receiving 25 sessions of working memory training, and the control group engaging in tasks that were not designed to increase working memory (the same tasks, but with no change in the level of difficulty). For at least a month after training, the group who had received working memory training reported a reduction in alcohol consumption of more than 30%.

Furthermore, the researchers found that the reduction in alcohol consumption was greatest for those with the most subconscious positive associations with alcohol. This supported the theory that working memory training was able to reduce drinking by allowing the participants to gain greater control over their subconscious impulses.

The following working memory training tasks were used in the study:

“During the visuospatial WM task, several squares in a 4 × 4 grid on a computer screen changed color. Participants had to reproduce the sequence of changes by using a computer mouse to click, in order, on the squares that had changed color. During the backward digit span task, several numbers were presented on the computer screen one at a time, and participants had to reproduce this sequence in reverse order using either the computer mouse or the number keys on the keyboard. Finally, in the letter span task, several letters were presented one at a time in a circle on the computer screen. One of the positions in this circle was then indicated, and participants had to enter the corresponding letter using the keyboard. Each of the three tasks consisted of 30 trials.”

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One Response to “Working Memory Training to Reduce Alcohol Consumption”

  1. gte697h says:

    This is very interesting. I have noticed that I don’t feel the urge to have a drink as often as I did (not that I drink a lot anyways). I also noticed that I have better impulse control as well resulting in greater efficiency at work. That being said, it has been a very long day and I really want to try a new beer I got! Cheers!

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