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Background: The blood glucose concentration might determine the degree of academic performance. Decrease in the glucose concentration leads to a lowering of cognitive functions.
Objectives: To produce a model of students’ alcohol use based on glucose homeostasis control and cognitive functions.
Methods: The study involved 13 male volunteers (8 moderate alcohol users and 5 non-alcohol users) – medical students and took 6.5 hours on fasting. Selection criteria were based on a screening survey conducted among students in Minsk, Belarus. Out of 1499 students, 185 were abstainers, 1052 – moderate drinkers, 262 – problem drinkers. The experiment was divided into three phases: first phase – the students were administered AUDIT, MAST, CAGE, STAI, Academic Performance questionnaires; second phase - the students worked with text ? 1 (physiology of bone tissue and subsequently answered on the questions that followed it); third phase – with text ? 2 (physiology of autonomic nervous system and also answered subsequently on the questions that followed it). Blood glucose level was measured at 2 hours intervals, including the initial level. Tests on short-term, long-term memory and attention were used in every phase of the experiment. The probability value for significance was set at p<0.05.
Results: The moderate drinkers had significantly lower glucose concentration after 4- 6 hours, compared to their initial concentration, as well as to the values of the abstainers. Disturbances in cognitive functions, precisely a decrease in the effectiveness of active attention and a faster development of fatigue after 4-6 hours ofmental work in alcohol users, compared to abstainers was statistically proven. The Intellectual Capacity on various tests/tasks positively correlated with the blood glucose level and in the 2-3 phases of the experiment and according to the results of the academic performances (ρ = +0.75; p<0.01). Alcohol users had 12.5–40.0 times higher number of errors on various tests/tasks than the non-alcohol users (p<0.001). The errors made on various tests/tasks increased with decrease in the blood glucose concentration (ρ = – 0.83; p<0.01). Significant increase in the Visual Productivity Coefficient among abstainers was also observed (p<0.05).
Conclusion: This is the first study to show that alcohol use, even in episodic moderate doses (28ml/person with 1-2 times frequency per month) is accompanied by long-term glucose homeostasis disorders, leading to cognitive function disturbances and a decrease in the effectiveness of mental activities. These disorders in glucose homeostasis, cognitive functions were retained after 7-10 days of moderate alcohol use and might be the reason for the low academic performances among students who use alcoholic beverages.
Psychophysiological model, alcohol use, academic performance, glucose homeostasis, cognitive functions, medical students