By: Huy Phi & Reza Hosseini Ghomi MD
Alcohol is known to impair cognitive functioning, and severity of impairment is hard to perceive as one approaches the legal alcohol limit of 0.08% blood alcohol content (BAC). Thus, our research team explored if the BrainCheck battery could detect severity of alcohol impairment.
Alcohol Impairment Detection Study Design
We recruited 91 participants over the legal drinking age, and had them take the BrainCheck battery before and after a voluntary drinking period. We only recruited people already at an establishment serving alcohol who were planning to consume alcohol. We had each person complete the BrainCheck battery before and after consuming alcohol. We then performed statistical analyses to identify differences between before and after the drinking period performances on BrainCheck. Here we saw performance on BrainCheck Trails A test had statistically significant differences. We also measured BAC of participants using a breathalyzer, and found that the Stroop test and the Digit Symbol Substitution had moderate correlations (r > 0.4) with participant BAC.
Predicting Blood Alcohol Level from BrainCheck scores
Next, we wanted to see if participant performance on BrainCheck could predict a participants BAC. We built machine learning regression models to predict participant BAC using only their BrainCheck performance. Lastly, we built machine learning logistic regression models to classify if a participant had a BAC of 0.5 or higher. The most effective model could achieve accuracy of 80.6% accuracy, 73.3% sensitivity, and 75.0% specificity.
BrainCheck is useful in detecting cognitive changes from alcohol
BrainCheck demonstrated promising accuracy in detecting impairment due to mild alcohol consumption. Being able to detect these minor cognitive changes may be useful in customizing feedback for individuals who consume alcohol or other substances to better understand the impact on their thinking. BrainCheck can also help shed light on which cognitive domains, specifically, alcohol impairs.