Attentional and working memory performance following alcohol and energy drink: A randomised, double-blind, placebo-controlled, factorial design laboratory study

Sarah Benson, Brian Tiplady, Andrew Scholey

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

16 Citations (Scopus)


Alcohol mixed with energy drinks (AMED) studies have typically not shown antagonism of acute alcohol effects by energy drink (ED), particularly over relatively short time frames. This study investigated the effects of alcohol, ED, and AMED on attentional and working memory processes over a 3 h period. Twenty-four young adults took part in a randomised, double-blind, placebo-controlled, factorial, 4-arm study. They were administered 0.6g/kg alcohol and 250 ml ED (containing 80 mg caffeine), and matching placebos alone and in combination. A battery of attentional and working memory measures was completed at baseline then 45, 90 and 180 min post-treatment. Alcohol produced a characteristic shift in speed/accuracy trade-off, having little effect on reaction times while increasing errors on all attentional measures (4-choice Reaction Time, Number Pairs and Visual Search), as well as a composite Attentional error score and one working memory task (Serial Sevens). ED alone improved two working memory measures (Memory Scanning accuracy and Digit–Symbol reaction times) and improved speed of responding on a composite Working Memory score. There was no consistent pattern of AMED vs. alcohol effects; AMED produced more errors than alcohol alone on one attentional measure (Visual Search errors) at 45 min only whereas AMED resulted in fewer errors on the Serial Sevens task at 90 min and better Digit-Symbol accuracy and reaction time at 45 min. Alcohol consumption increases error rate across several attentional and working memory processes. Mutual antagonism between alcohol and ED showed no consistent pattern and likely reflects a complex interaction between caffeine and alcohol levels, phase of the blood alcohol limb, task domain and cognitive load.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere0209239
Number of pages17
JournalPLoS ONE
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2019
Externally publishedYes

Cite this