Gaze entropy measures reveal alcohol-induced visual scanning impairment during ascending and descending phases of intoxication Academic Article uri icon


  • OBJECTIVE:Visuospatial awareness is critical for everyday activities like driving. Higher order processes, such as visuospatial working memory (VSWM) and top-down modulation of gaze control, enable goal-driven visual scanning. Although available evidence suggests that alcohol differentially affects VSWM during the ascending and descending phases of the blood alcohol concentration (BAC) curve, it remains unclear whether such impact extends to a systemic disruption of visual scanning behavior. METHOD:In a placebo-controlled and repeated-measures design, the present study investigated the influence of moderate alcohol intake (0.6 g/kg) on VSWM and gaze behavior by using gaze entropy measures to quantify visual scanning efficiency. Thirty-eight (18 female, 20 male) healthy participants completed a VSWM task across three consecutive sessions (baseline, ascending, descending) while their eye movements were simultaneously recorded. RESULTS:Performance in VSWM was affected during the descending session, where response accuracy declined significantly. Stationary gaze entropy (SGE) and gaze transition entropy (GTE) measures significantly reduced during both ascending and descending sessions. Fixation rate and duration were also affected by alcohol, but only during the ascending session. CONCLUSIONS:Reduction in SGE suggests a less explorative distribution of gaze, whereas low GTE is indicative of reduced visual scanning efficiency. These findings reflect the detrimental effects of alcohol on top-down control of gaze behavior, which may limit visual scanning efficiency. Deficits in visual scanning efficiency across the blood alcohol concentration curve may reduce visuospatial awareness and contribute to unintentional injuries during periods of intoxication.

publication date

  • 2019