Date of Award

January 2023

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



First Advisor

Dmitri Poltavski


Neuronal degeneration resulting from excessive alcohol use, such that occurs with binge drinking behavior, is proposed to be linked to both impairment in neuronal functioning and corresponding psychological deficits in executive functioning such as working memory. A total of 73 undergraduate students (mean age = 19) completed a series of questionnaires assessing drinking behaviors and mental health. Upon completion, subjects were assigned to one of two groups based on their reported drinking behavior. Subjects completed a series of psychomotor tasks that required working memory demands under temporal processing conditions from the Senaptec Sensory Station tablet as well as two traditional working memory computer tasks. EEG data was collected to identify differences in working memory capacity between binge drinkers and casual drinkers using a short-term memory load index (STMLI) which was calculated by dividing the power spectral density (PSD) for theta located at the Fz electrode by the corresponding PSD for gamma for each participant. The primary analyses did not show significant group differences for the STMLI on the cognitive tasks. Secondary analyses were conducted with two new groups, light drinkers vs. heavy drinkers. There was a significant group difference for the STMLI during completion of the Go/No-go task. Additional analyses were conducted with the new groups exploring differences for Fz theta, beta, and gamma power as well as POz alpha. Finally, cognitive state metric comparisons were explored between groups. There were no reported group differences seen on any of the behavioral performance measures (i.e., Go/No-go, Digit Span task) for either of the group comparisons. The findings of the current study suggest greater sensitivity of physiological measures to potential cognitive deficits associated with early alcohol consumption compared to traditional cognitive measures in this age group. Implications of this research demonstrate that negative consequences of heavy alcohol consumption can occur even in young populations and is evident through a variety of brain activity measurements during tasks of working memory.