Recent research has suggested that processes reliant on executive functions are impaired by an alcohol hangover, yet few studies have investigated the effect of hangovers on core executive function processes. Therefore, the current study investigated the effect of hangovers on the three core components of the unity/diversity model of executive functions: the ability to switch attention, update information in working memory, and maintain goals. Thirty-five 18-to-30-year-old non-smoking individuals who reported experiencing a hangover at least once in the previous month participated in this study. They completed tasks measuring switching (number-switching task), updating (n-back task), and goal maintenance (AX Continuous Performance Test, AX-CPT) whilst experiencing a hangover and without a hangover in a ‘naturalistic’ within-subjects crossover design. Participants made more errors in the switching task (p
= 0.019), more errors in both the 1- (p
< 0.001) and 2-back (p
< 0.001) versions of the n-back, and more errors in the AX-CPT (p
= 0.007) tasks when experiencing a hangover, compared to the no-hangover condition. These results suggest that an alcohol hangover impairs core executive function processes that are important for everyday behaviours, such as decision-making, planning, and mental flexibility.
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