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Acute consumption of ethyl alcohol affects a variety of visual functions. However, there have been few systematic attempts to investigate the neural mechanisms underlying these effects. Here, we employed the Westheimer paradigm to investigate the hypothesis that alcohol reduces lateral inhibition within human "perceptive fields", the psychophysical analogue of physiological receptive fields. Westheimer functions obtained under alcohol and no-alcohol conditions at photopic, mesopic, and scotopic levels of adaptation showed changes consistent with an alcohol-induced decrease in lateral inhibition. We conclude that this decrease in lateral inhibition may be responsible for some of the changes in visual perception that result from alcohol consumption.
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