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Background: It has recently been shown that acute alcohol globally impairs ‘prospective memory’ (PM)—remembering to do something in the future (Leitz et al. in Psychopharmacology 205:379–387, 2009). In healthy, sober individuals, simulating future events at encoding enhances PM performance.

Aims: We therefore aimed to determine if future event simulation could attenuate the impairing effects of acute alcohol on PM.

Methods: Using a double-blind independent group design, 32 healthy volunteers were administered a 0.6-g/kg dose of ethanol or matched placebo. PM performance was assessed using a behavioural task, the ‘Virtual Week’, which was adapted to enable future event simulation in both remote and recent contexts. Episodic memory was indexed with a source memory task and planning with the Tower of London task.

Results: We replicated the finding of Leitz et al. that acute alcohol consumption impairs prospective memory for event-based tasks. Future event simulation significantly improved PM performance on these tasks and eliminated the PM deficit caused by acute alcohol consumption.

Conclusions: This is the first evidence that future event simulation can overcome alcohol-induced deficits in prospective memory and may have important clinical implications for the rehabilitation of chronic alcohol users.


School of Psychology

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Journal Article

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