Temporary impairment

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It’s easy to find articles on the long term impairment to IQ due to fetal alcohol syndrome and other causes, yet terribly difficult to find anything on the much more common-place phenomenon of temporary impairment. I think that it would be very useful to know the number of standard deviations by which a given level blood alcohol, sleep deprivation, or other impairment alters IQ, reaction time, etc. Does anyone here have any idea where this sort of research is published, or if it isn’t published, why it isn’t? Government resistance to research facilitating the direct comparison of the hazards of different drugs is an obvious reason, but doesn’t seem sufficient.

For that matter, any thoughts on why the magnitude of the cognitive benefits of aderall, ritalin, modafinal, caffeine, and the like are so rarely quantified?


  1. Well, a little OT but I spoke to this researcher recently about her research into the genetics of seizures induced by substance withdrawl. Interesting lady.

  2. Well this article mentions IQ loss due to marijuana use and losing a night of sleep. http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk/4471607.stm

  3. I can’t remember the location, but I saw a suggestion recently that talking on a cell phone reduces one’s driving ability more than a blood alcohol level of .05.

  4. Alex S 
    I guess your quotedstudy answers one question. marijuana reduces IQ by around 5 points. not that much really

  5. I suspect that one issue in measuring temporary impairment is that (good) IQ tests take time – enough time that many drugs will start to wear off during the course of the test.  
    I’d be surprised if reaction time impairment hasn’t been studied by traffic-safety people, though, as that’s a quick test.

  6. The dip for pot users was 4 points and this was also only for heavy users.  

  7. I’ve been wondering about this issue myself. 
    Dr. Stanley Coren from UBC had done some research on IQ in regards to Sleep Deprivation (CTRL F->Sleep Deprivation): 
    A few more regarding Sleep Deprivation:  
    I’ve been meaning to email Dr. Coren for the actual studies quantifying the drops in IQ because i can’t find them on the net but haven’t gotten around to emailing him – perhaps I’ll have to buy his book.  
    (Neurocognitive Consequences of Sleep Deprivation Jeffrey S. Durmer, M.D., Ph.D.; David F. Dinges, Ph.D. ) 
    Some links for alcohol intake and it’s effects on learning and memory: 
    And i think they administered IQ tests before and after giving the participants alcohol in this study: 
    Boxing and Brain damage: 
    The last study indicates that boxing does not affect IQ but that memory, attention span etc. are.

  8. The 1960s studies of drink-drivers might be a place to begin.

  9. Interesting question. 
    I find that I cannot do even very simple math (like undergraduate combinatorics) after a single glass of whiskey. (Sometimes I try to grade exercises in the evenings, and always find that my brain simply doesn’t work at that level after a wee bit of alcohol.) 
    Pretty much any other intellectual activity works fine with a glass of single malt, like reading books. I suspect that not all IQ-correlated traits are hit equally. But my “do maths proofs” centre sure shuts down after the tiniest quantity.

  10. Hmm. Most of these links still refer to long term impairment. http://www.ssc.uwo.ca/psychology…0%20-% 20pdf.pdf doesn’t, but is obviously botched. It shows one gender gaining IQ from alcohol and the other loosing, plus sober women more violent then drunk men. 
    Thanks for trying, but I still have little reliable information.

  11. This article does provide details on vegetarians supplementing with creatine: 
    I haven?t seen any follow up studies. 
    I?ve long wanted an online resource for this type of information. One that would be kept up to date to reflect the latest scientific consensus. It would also be nice to have a detailed description of the test subjects, e.g., average IQ, age, fitness level. There should be enough information to build a Brain Building site similar to the best Body Building sites. 
    Long term negatives: Alcohol, lead, iron deficiency, depression, etc. 
    Short term negatives: Drugs, lack of sleep, illness, pain, distraction. 
    Long term prenatal and post natal positives: breastfeeding, choline supplements, fish oils. 
    Long term positive supplements: choline, fish oils, creatine? 
    Short-term positives: caffeine. 
    Long term positive training: aerobic exercise, foreign languages. 
    Short term: focussing techniques, creativity techniques. 
    Also information on what environments enhance or diminish IQ.

  12. Long term positive, constant involvement with intellectual tasks, from the nun studies.

  13. I strongly agree Fly. Any thoughts on why there appearently are no such resources?

  14. Any ideas? Yeah, I always have ideas? 
    Body Builders have some evidence that supplements and training yields results. Where are the champion thinkers that attribute their success to diet, drugs, or training. It is harder to demonstrate mental performance enhancement than physical enhancement. (Is that true or is it just that nobody tries?) 
    (A famous mathematician, Paul Erdos, regularly used ?speed? and claimed that it improved his productivity. I doubt his endorsement will help the brain building movement.) 
    The market is captured by people selling herbs and supplements. The drive to make money drives out good information. Marketing obscures science. 
    Parts of the marketplace are already being well served. There are sites that offer good information for pre-natal and postnatal nutrition. The intelligent mothers-to-be are already being served. 
    Someone has to be first. 
    Yeah, I have ideas but I don?t believe they explain the lack of a good online site. My own values are likely distorting my perception but I?d think such a site would be very popular and could make someone a lot of money. 
    FuturePundit has links to many articles that could form the core of such a site. 
    You could selectively harvest information from the herb and supplement sellers such as LifeExtensionInstitute. (With lots of healthy skepticism.)

  15. fly, 
    When you say “fish oils”, do you mean Omega-3 fatty acids, or what is often referred to as “Cod liver oil”? 
    As regards “Foreign languages”, is this languages learned during infancy, childhood or adulthood?

  16. Pconroy, 
    Yes, Omega-3 fatty acids. Important for pre-natal nutrition and important for adults. 
    ?As regards “Foreign languages”, is this languages learned during infancy, childhood or adulthood?? 
    Good question. I don?t think the articles I?ve read made a distinction. I?m teaching myself Spanish partly as a mind exercise, partly because California is becoming a bilingual state, and partly because TV is more interesting when the program is from a foreign culture and in a foreign language. Interesting to imagine my hearing and speech centers rewiring to identify new sounds and language structures.

  17. I learned Irish Gaelic from age 4-12 in a full immersion program, no English allowed, and later studied it at high school and summer camp. So I was totally fleunt in it – people used to tell me that sometimes I would speak Gaelic in my sleep. I speak French, German poorly, but read them and Latin better. 
    My daughter is being reared multilingual from birth, I only speak English to her, her mother only speaks French to her – her daycare is run by an Austrian and staffed by Columbian and Polish assistants. So my daughter says aqua for water, chapeau for hat, ya for yes, though she does understand the alternatives if spoken to her. 
    In some European countries, Holland particularly, it is common to know 3 languages – Dutch, English and French – and not uncommon to know 4 – the above plus German. I met a Dutch guy who spoke all the above, plus Spanish and Italian. He could read, write and speak fleuntly, all six languages.

  18. The first study relating IQ to drug use I believe was The LaGuardia Commission Report of 1939. 
    BTW it seems to be not very well appreciated that alcohol is very, very good for your heart. See Klatsky’s work. He was the Chief of Cardiology at Oakland Kaiser. His successor is my cardiologist. Kaiser wants me to drink and rather more than you might imagine. Excessive and binge drinking is bad but about a third of a bottle of wine a day is good.

  19. Pat: ?BTW it seems to be not very well appreciated that alcohol is very, very good for your heart.? 
    Good catch. I was thinking about pre-natal effects and heavy drinking in adults. Light drinking likely improves cardiovascular function and that should also improve brain function. Red wine has additional, non-alcohol related benefits. 
    I?ve seen light social drinking lead to problem drinking and I?ve seen even mild intoxication acerbate relationship problems so I?m biased against alcohol.