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Abstract

SMOKING, ALCOHOL CONSUMPTION, MOOD, CARDIOVASCULAR FUNCTION, AND SELECTIVITY IN ATTENTION AND MEMORY

*Andrew P. Smith, PhD.

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Abstract

Background: Smoking and alcohol consumption are two major public health problems. Research has investigated associations between these factors and physical and mental health. Their acute effects on cognitive performance have also been examined. Chronic use in older adults is also associated with neuropsychological problems. Less is known about the effects of these health-related behaviours in young adults, and the present study examined whether smoking and high alcohol consumption modify selectivity in memory and attention, mood and cardiovascular function. Method: 120 university students (50% male) took part in the study. Measurements were taken in the morning between 9.30 and 11.30 am, and questionnaires measuring healthrelated behaviours were completed. Blood pressure and heart rate were measured, mood was rated before and after the battery of performance tasks, and tests measuring selectivity in attention and memory were performed. Results: Blood pressure was greater in the high alcohol group (> 13 units a week). High alcohol consumption was also associated with a smaller recall priority effect. Smoking was associated with a greater recall priority effect. There was also a significant interaction between smoking and alcohol consumption for the recall priority effect, with high alcohol consumers who were both smokers and non-smokers showing a small priority effect, whereas low alcohol consumers who were smokers showed a greater priority effect than low alcohol non-smokers. Conclusion: The present analyses showed that both smoking and level of alcohol consumption had little effect on mood, cardiovascular parameters and selectivity in attention and memory. The exception was the recall priority task, which measures resource allocation to high and low-priority components in memory. Alcohol and smoking showed opposite effects, and these results need to be extended by examining a more detailed profile of these two health-related behaviours.

Keywords: Smoking; Alcohol; Mood; Heart rate; Blood pressure; Selective Attention; Biased probability choice reaction time; Category Instances; Stroop Task; Task priority; University students.


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