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Some performance effects of age and low blood alcohol levels on a computerized neuropsychological test.
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    COGSCREEN is a computerized test battery developed for the Federal Aviation Administration as an airman neuropsychological screening instrument for cognitive functioning. This study explored a multifaceted application of the sensitivity of the battery to potential differences in performance capabilities, current civil aviation interest in the performance effects of low levels of blood alcohol, and the potential significance of age on cognitive performance. Nine of 11 basic COGSCREEN tests were used with 60 subjects divided into three age groups, 27 32, 42 47, and 57 62 years. Twelve subjects within each age category (N=36) comprised an alcohol group; 8 subjects within each age category (N=24) comprised a control group. Subjects were given four 30 minute sessions of training on the task battery during one afternoon and participated in experimental sessions on the next afternoon. Experimental sessions comprised a pre drinking (baseline) and three post drinking sessions targeted to breath alcohol (BrAC) levels of 0.04, 0.027, and 0.014% for the alcohol group; each control subject received a placebo. The results yielded statistically significant age effects on 20 of 25 measures of performance across the 9 tasks for the predrinking sessions favoring the younger age group, using the entire subject population (N=60). An analysis using only the control subjects found significant age effects on 18 of the 25 measures of performance on both the baseline and the post baseline sessions; whereas, the analysis of the alcohol subjects (N=36) found significant age differences on 15 of 25 scores for the pre drinking session and only 13, 11, and 10 of 25 on the post drinking sessions respectively. Results of the analysis for age and alcohol session effects revealed statistically significant interactions for 3 measures: mean reaction time of visual comparisons during dual task, and the symbol digit delayed recall task, as well as the number of correct symbol digit pairings of the delayed recall task. These data indicate that the COGSCREEN test battery is sensitive to decremental effects on information processing time and cognitive reductions associated with aging. Generally, the results of this study do not support a typical alcohol effect. The simple effects tests yielded results that failed to show sessional patterns consistent with BrAC levels. However, the alcohol sessions may have reduced differences between the age groups.
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