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1.  Psychophysiological Responses to Stress Following Alcohol Intake in Social Drinkers Who Are at Risk of Hazardous Drinking 
Biological psychology  2013;93(1):9-16.
We examined whether social drinkers whose drinking behavior poses a risk for harmful consequences exhibit altered psychobiological responses to stress following moderate alcohol intake. At risk (n = 17) and low risk drinkers (n = 27), as identified by the Alcohol Use Disorders Identification Test, completed two laboratory stress sessions, one in which they consumed a drink with alcohol and one without alcohol. Subjective and physiological measures were obtained throughout the study. Reported stimulation following alcohol consumption and sedation post-stress on alcohol day were greater than the no alcohol day in at risk drinkers (ps < .05). Low risk drinkers exhibited stress dampening effects on cortisol levels (p < .05). This was not the case among the high risk drinkers. These results indicate that acute alcohol intake may be associated with enhanced subjective and altered hormonal responses to stress in individuals who are at risk for becoming problem drinkers.
PMCID: PMC3622864  PMID: 23313460
alcohol; cortisol; stress; AUDIT; substance use
2.  Acute alcohol effects on impulsivity: Associations with drinking and driving behavior 
Addiction (Abingdon, England)  2012;107(12):2109-2114.
Although drink drivers exhibit higher levels of trait impulsivity, no studies have tested the hypothesis that drink drivers experience increased impulsivity while intoxicated. We tested this hypothesis for two impulsivity constructs: delay discounting and behavioral inhibition.
A within-subjects study comparing performance of drink drivers and non-drink drivers on behavioral measures of impulsivity in alcohol and no-beverage sessions.
A laboratory setting at the University of Missouri.
Twenty-nine young adults who were at least moderate drinkers were recruited from the local community and the University of Missouri.
Impulsivity was assessed using the Two Choice Impulsivity Paradigm (TCIP) and the Stop-Signal Task. Participants also completed self-report measures of binge drinking and trait impulsivity.
In the no-beverage session, TCIP impulsive choices did not differ between drinking and driving groups (p = .93). In the alcohol session, drink drivers made more TCIP impulsive choices on both the ascending (p < .01) and descending limb (p < .01) of the blood alcohol concentration curve than their peers who did not drink and drive. Drinking and driving groups did not differ on the Stop-Signal Task. Supplementary analyses indicated that effects for the TCIP were not explained by individual differences in trait impulsivity.
Individuals who report having three or more drinks before driving show greater impulsivity when under the influence of alcohol than those who do not report heavy drinking before driving.
PMCID: PMC3449018  PMID: 22690907
3.  Can’t stop the craving: The effect of impulsivity on cue-elicited craving for alcohol in heavy and light social drinkers 
Psychopharmacology  2011;219(2):511-518.
A robust finding in the alcohol literature is that heavy and alcohol-dependent drinkers show stronger reactions to alcohol-related cues than light drinkers. However, there are individual differences in the degree of cue-elicited craving. Personality factors appear to be involved in cue reactivity and impulsivity is a possible candidate.
The aim of the present study was to examine the role of different aspects of impulsivity in heavy drinking and alcohol cue reactivity in social drinkers.
Participants were heavy (n = 13) and light (n = 29) social drinkers who were exposed to neutral and alcohol-related stimuli during a single laboratory session. Trait impulsivity, response inhibition, and sensitivity to reward were assessed with the Barratt Impulsiveness Scale (BIS-11), the Stop Signal Task, and the Card-Arranging Reward Responsivity Objective Test, respectively.
Heavy drinkers scored higher on trait impulsivity (BIS-11) than light drinkers. In addition, heavy drinkers reported elevated levels of craving for alcohol, but both in light and heavy drinkers, craving increased equally after exposure to alcohol cues. Impulsivity appeared to moderate this relation: heavy drinkers with ineffective response inhibition showed more craving to alcohol cues, compared to heavy drinkers with adequate response inhibition. In light drinkers, response inhibition did not influence craving to alcohol cues.
Different aspects of impulsivity are involved in heavy drinking and perhaps motivate alcohol consumption in a variety of ways. Having a deficient response inhibition appears to be a risk factor for heavy drinkers because it is associated with increased craving to alcohol cues.
PMCID: PMC3249167  PMID: 21384105
Cue reactivity; Craving; Alcohol cue exposure; Impulsivity; Response inhibition; Sensitivity to reward
4.  Impulsivity and alcohol consumption in young social drinkers 
Addictive behaviors  2011;37(2):217-220.
Impulsivity may have different facets that contribute to drinking patterns in young people. This research examined how aspects of impulse control, especially the ability to inhibit a response, predicted recent alcohol use patterns in young social drinkers. Participants (N = 109) between the ages of 18 and 21 performed a cued go/no-go task that required quick responses to go targets and the inhibition of responses to no-go targets. Participants also completed several questionnaires that assessed drinking habits (TLFB) and self-reported impulsivity (BIS-11). Regression analyses revealed that both the impulsivity questionnaire scores and the inhibitory failures observed on the behavioral task predicted various aspects of recent drinking. However, only the inhibitory failures from the behavioral task, and not the impulsivity questionnaire scores, predicted the highest number of drinks consumed on one occasion during the past month. These findings are consistent with the notion that impulsivity may have different components that may be contributing the drinking patterns, and this research suggests that the inability to withhold a response is a strong predictor of the binge use of alcohol.
PMCID: PMC3230724  PMID: 21981824
alcohol; binge drinking; impulsivity; behavioral control; reaction time
5.  Behavioral Components of Impulsivity Predict Alcohol Consumption in Adults with ADHD and Healthy Controls 
Drug and alcohol dependence  2010;113(2-3):139-146.
The degree to which distinct behavioral components of impulsivity predict alcohol consumption is as yet not well-understood. Further, the possibility that this relation might be more pronounced in groups characterized by heightened impulsivity (i.e., individuals with ADHD) has not been tested.
The current study examined the degree to which three specific behavioral components of impulsivity (i.e., poor response inhibition, poor attentional inhibition, and increased risk-taking) were associated with quantity and frequency of alcohol consumption in a group of young adult social drinkers with ADHD (n = 33) and in a comparison control group (n = 21). Participants performed the delayed ocular return task (attentional inhibition), the cued go/no-go task (behavioral inhibition), and the Balloon Analogue Risk Task (risk-taking).
Both poor behavioral inhibition and greater risk-taking were related to greater quantity of consumption in the entire sample, whereas poor attentional inhibition was related to greater quantity specifically among those with ADHD. By contrast, only risk-taking was associated with frequency of consumption, and this was found specifically in the control group.
These findings provide important information regarding the potential role of distinct behavioral components of impulsivity in drinking behavior, and highlight unique relevance of attentional impairments to drinking behavior in those with ADHD.
PMCID: PMC3010339  PMID: 20863628
behavioral impulsivity; alcohol consumption; ADHD
6.  The role of impulsivity and perceived availability on cue-elicited craving for alcohol in social drinkers 
Psychopharmacology  2012;224(1):145-153.
Previous research has demonstrated a role for impulsivity and perceived availability of the substance in cue-elicited craving. However, their effects on cue-elicited craving for alcohol are still ambiguous. Most important is that there has been no empirical evidence for the potential interaction of these factors on alcohol craving.
The aim of the present study was to examine the effects of response inhibition and perceived availability on cue-elicited craving for alcohol in social drinkers.
Participants were light to moderate social drinkers (N = 75) who were exposed to neutral- and alcohol-related stimuli during a single laboratory session. Response inhibition was assessed with the Stop Signal Task. Participants were randomly assigned to one of two perceived availability groups (n = 37, expecting alcohol; n = 38, not expecting alcohol).
Overall craving for alcohol was higher in participants who expected alcohol than in those who did not. This finding was statistically significant only in the alcohol condition. Most important is that there was a significant interaction between response inhibition, perceived availability and time on cue-elicited craving. Regardless of the cue type, impulsive people who expected alcohol experience a significant increase in cue-elicited craving relative to impulsive people who did not expect alcohol. This effect was not observed in the non-impulsive groups.
The results clearly show that perceived availability alone and in combination with response inhibition can modulate alcohol cue reactivity. Theoretical explanations and clinical implications of these findings are discussed.
PMCID: PMC3465646  PMID: 22638812
Cue reactivity; Craving; Alcohol cue exposure; Impulsivity; Response inhibition; Perceived availability
7.  The contributions of value-based decision-making and attentional bias to alcohol-seeking following devaluation 
Addiction (Abingdon, England)  2013;108(7):1241-1249.
To investigate the mediating role of attentional bias for alcohol cues on alcohol-seeking following devaluation of alcohol.
Between subject.
Eye-tracking laboratory at the University of Liverpool.
Student social drinkers (n = 64).
An operant choice task in which participants chose between simultaneously presented alcohol and non-alcohol drink rewards, while attentional bias for alcohol and non-alcohol drink cues was inferred from eye movements. Participants then consumed 30 mL of an alcoholic beverage, which was either presented alone (no devaluation: n = 32) or had been adulterated to taste unpleasant (devaluation: n = 32). Choice and attentional bias for the alcohol and non-alcohol drink pictures were then measured again.
Alcohol devaluation reduced behavioural choice for alcohol (F = 32.64, P < 0.001) and attentional bias for the alcohol pictures indexed by dwell time (F = 22.68, P < 0.001), initial fixation (F = 7.08, P = 0.01) and final fixation (F = 22.44, P < 0.001). Mediation analysis revealed that attentional bias partially mediated the effect of devaluation on alcohol choice; however, the proportion of the variance accounted for by attentional bias is low to moderate (∼30%).
Among student social drinkers, attentional bias is only a partial mediator of alcohol choice following devaluation of alcohol. Value-based decision-making may be a more important determinant of drinking behaviour among student social drinkers than attentional bias.
PMCID: PMC3746131  PMID: 23614520
Alcohol-seeking; attentional bias; concurrent choice; devaluation; social drinkers; value-based decision making
Higher levels of impulsivity have been implicated in the development of alcohol use disorders. Recent findings suggest that impulsivity is not a unitary construct, highlighted by the diverse ways in which the various measures of impulsivity relate to alcohol use outcomes. This study simultaneously tested the following dimensions of impulsivity as determinants of alcohol use and alcohol problems: risky decision-making, self-reported risk attitudes, response inhibition, and impulsive decision-making.
Participants were a community sample of non-treatment seeking problem drinkers (N = 158). Structural Equation Modeling (SEM) analyses employed behavioral measures of impulsive decision-making (Delay Discounting Task, DDT), response inhibition (Stop Signal Task, SST), and risky decision-making (Balloon Analogue Risk Task, BART), and a self-report measure of risk attitudes (Domain-specific Risk-attitude Scale, DOSPERT), as predictors of alcohol use and of alcohol-related problems in this sample.
The model fit well, accounting for 38% of the variance in alcohol problems, and identified two impulsivity dimensions that significantly loaded onto alcohol outcomes: (1) impulsive decision-making, indexed by the DDT; and (2) risky decision-making, measured by the BART.
The impulsive decision-making dimension of impulsivity, indexed by the DDT, was the strongest predictor of alcohol use and alcohol pathology in this sample of problem drinkers. Unexpectedly, a negative relationship was found between risky decision-making and alcohol problems. The results highlight the importance of considering the distinct facets of impulsivity in order to elucidate their individual and combined effects on alcohol use initiation, escalation, and dependence.
PMCID: PMC3291799  PMID: 22091877
impulsivity; alcohol use; alcohol problems; delayed reward discounting; risk-taking
9.  Lost in the Sauce The Effects of Alcohol on Mind Wandering? 
Psychological science  2009;20(6):747-752.
Alcohol consumption alters consciousness in ways that make drinking both alluring and hazardous. Recent advances in the study of consciousness using a mind-wandering paradigm permit a rigorous examination of the effects of alcohol on experiential consciousness and metaconsciousness. Fifty-four male social drinkers consumed alcohol (0.82 g/kg) or a placebo beverage and then performed a mind-wandering reading task. This task indexed both self-caught and probe-caught zone-outs to distinguish between mind wandering inside and outside of awareness. Compared with participants who drank the placebo, those who drank alcohol were significantly more likely to report that they were zoning out when probed. After this increase in mind wandering was accounted for, alcohol also lowered the probability of catching oneself zoning out. The results suggest that alcohol increases mind wandering while simultaneously reducing the likelihood of noticing one's mind wandering. Findings are discussed with regard to theories of alcohol and theories of consciousness.
PMCID: PMC2724753  PMID: 19422627
10.  Cognitive Processes in Alcohol Binges: A Review and Research Agenda 
Current drug abuse reviews  2008;1(3):263-279.
Alcohol abuse is associated with a cluster of long-term changes in cognitive processes, as predicted by contemporary models of addiction. In this paper we review evidence which suggests that similar changes may occur during an alcohol binge, and as such they may play an important role in explaining the loss of control over alcohol consumption that occurs during alcohol binges. As a consequence of both acute alcohol intoxication (alcohol ‘priming’ effects) and exposure to environmental alcohol-related cues, we suggest that a number of changes in cognitive processes are likely. These include increased subjective craving for alcohol, increased positive and arousing outcome expectancies and implicit associations for alcohol use, increased attentional bias for alcohol-related cues, increased action tendencies to approach alcohol, increased impulsive decision-making, and impaired inhibitory control over drives and behaviour. Potential reciprocal relationships between these different aspects of cognition during an alcohol binge are discussed. Finally, we discuss the relationship between the current model and existing models of cognitive processes in substance abuse, and we speculate on the implications of the model for the reduction binge drinking and its consequences.
PMCID: PMC3066447  PMID: 19630725
Alcohol; binge drinking; priming; cues; craving; attentional bias; implicit cognition; impulsivity; inhibitory control; outcome expectancies
11.  Delineating Potential Mechanisms of Implicit Alcohol Cognitions: Drinking Restraint, Negative Affect, and their Relationship with Approach Alcohol Associations 
Problem drinkers may use alcohol to avoid negative mood states and may develop implicit cognitive associations between negative emotional states and reinforcing properties of drinking. Ironically, attempts to control drinking, such as among those high in drinking restraint, may inadvertently increase desire to drink and subsequent alcohol consumption, and this may be exaggerated under times of emotional distress when urges to drink are high. We examined whether individuals who are high on drinking restraint would demonstrate stronger alcohol-related thoughts elicited by stimuli that represent the desire to use alcohol, in response to stronger versus weaker negative mood arousal. Seventy hazardous drinkers completed measurements of drinking restraint, alcohol consumption, and consequences of use. After being randomized to view negative or positive pictures sets, participants completed an Implicit Association Task (IAT) to test differences in the strength of the association between desire to approach or avoid alcohol or water cues, and then a measurement of subjective craving following the IAT. Regression analyses showed that trait restriction, but not temptation, was positively related to IAT scores, after controlling for relevant covariates and explained 7% of the total variance. Trait temptation, but not IAT, predicted subjective craving. Negative affect was unrelated to IAT scores, singly or in conjunction with measures of drinking restraint, contrary to predictions. In sum, implicit alcohol cognitions are related to attempts to restrict drinking, but not temptation to drink, and are less strongly influenced by mood state.
PMCID: PMC3927785  PMID: 22369223
Implicit cognitions; drinking restraint; urges; alcohol consumption
12.  Gender Differences in Factors Associated with Alcohol Drinking: Delay Discounting and Perception of Others’ Drinking 
Drug and alcohol dependence  2011;123(0):273-276.
Excessive alcohol consumption in college students is associated with impulsivity and with overestimating levels of others’ drinking; however, females’ and males’ drinking may be differently impacted by their overestimations. We examined whether moderate drinkers discount alcohol rewards differently from money rewards and whether their estimate of others’ drinking is more closely associated with own-drinking for males than females.
College students completed two delay discounting tasks in which they chose between money rewards and between alcohol rewards, varying in amount and delay to receipt. Participants also completed questionnaires about their own and others’ drinking.
Area under the delay-subjective value curve (AUC) was smaller for alcohol than money rewards, implying steeper discounting of alcohol rewards. Regression analyses showed that females’ number of drinks per sitting was related only to AUC for money, while males’ drinks per sitting was related to their estimate of others’ drinks.
The relationship between alcohol consumption and discounting was replicated. This study also indicated that social norms play a larger role in determining males’ drinking than females’.
PMCID: PMC3925447  PMID: 22154359
delay discounting; alcohol; college students; peer influence; gender; social norms
13.  Acute disinhibiting effects of alcohol as a factor in risky driving behavior 
Drug and alcohol dependence  2008;95(1-2):97-106.
Automobile crash reports show that up to 40% of fatal crashes in the United States involve alcohol and that younger drivers are over-represented. Alcohol use among young drivers is associated with impulsive and risky driving behaviors, such as speeding, which could contribute to their over-representation in alcohol-related crash statistics. Recent laboratory studies show that alcohol increases impulsive behaviors by impairing the drinker’s ability to inhibit inappropriate actions and that this effect can be exacerbated in conflict situations where the expression and inhibition of behavior are equally motivating. The present study tested the hypothesis that this response conflict might also intensify the disruptive effects of alcohol on driving performance. Fourteen subjects performed a simulated driving and a cued go/no-go task that measured their inhibitory control. Conflict was motivated in these tasks by providing equal monetary incentives for slow, careful behavior (e.g., slow driving, inhibiting impulses) and for quick, abrupt behavior (fast driving, disinhibition). Subjects were tested under two alcohol doses (0.65 g/kg and a placebo) that were administered twice: when conflict was present and when conflict was absent. Alcohol interacted with conflict to impair inhibitory control and to increase risky and impaired driving behavior on the drive task. Also, individuals whose inhibitory control was most impaired by alcohol displayed the poorest driving performance under the drug. The study demonstrates potentially serious disruptions to driving performance as a function of alcohol intoxication and response conflict, and points to inhibitory control as an important underlying mechanism.
PMCID: PMC2376256  PMID: 18325693
Alcohol; Driving; Impulsivity; Response Conflict
14.  What Do You Mean “Drunk”? Convergent Validation of Multiple Methods of Mapping Alcohol Expectancy Memory Networks 
The configuration and activation of memory networks have been theorized as mechanisms underlying the often observed link between alcohol expectancies and drinking. A key component of this network is the expectancy “drunk.” The memory network configuration of “drunk” was mapped using cluster analysis of data gathered from the paired-similarities task (PST) and the Alcohol Expectancy Multi-Axial Assessment (AEMax). A third task, the free associates task (FA), assessed participants’ strongest alcohol expectancy associates, and was used as a validity check for the cluster analyses. 647 18–19 year-olds completed these measures, and a measure of alcohol consumption, at baseline assessment for a 5-year longitudinal study. For both the PST and AEMAX, “drunk” clustered with mainly negative and sedating effects (e.g., “sick,” “dizzy,” “sleepy”) in lighter drinkers, and with more positive and arousing effects (e.g., “happy,” “horny,” “outgoing”) in heavier drinkers, showing that the cognitive organization of expectancies reflected drinker type (and might influence the choice to drink). Consistent with the cluster analyses, in participants who gave “drunk” as an FA response, heavier drinkers rated the word as more positive and arousing than lighter drinkers. Additionally, gender did not account for the observed drinker type differences. These results support the notion that for some emerging adults drinking may be linked to what they mean by the word “drunk.”
PMCID: PMC3375385  PMID: 22288974
alcohol expectancies; memory networks; binge drinking; information processing; affective valence
15.  Acute Alcohol Consumption Disrupts the Hormonal Milieu of Lactating Women 
Despite the lack of scientific evidence to support the claim that alcohol is a galactagogue, lactating women have been advised to drink alcohol as an aid to lactation for centuries. To test the hypothesis that alcohol consumption affects the hormonal response in lactating women, we conducted a within-subjects design study in which 17 women consumed a 0.4 g/kg dose of alcohol in orange juice during one test session and an equal volume of orange juice during the other. Changes in plasma prolactin, oxytocin, and cortisol levels during and after breast stimulation, lactational performance, and mood states were compared under the two experimental conditions. Oxytocin levels significantly decreased, whereas prolactin levels and measures of sedation, dysphoria, and drunkenness significantly increased, during the immediate hours after alcohol consumption. Changes in oxytocin were related to measures of lactational performance such as milk yield and ejection latencies, whereas changes in prolactin were related to self-reported measures of drunkenness. Although alcohol consumption resulted in significantly higher cortisol when compared with the control condition, cortisol levels were not significantly correlated with any of the indices of lactational performance or self-reported drug effects. Moreover, cortisol levels steadily decreased on the control day, indicating that the procedures were not stressful to the subjects. In conclusion, recommending alcohol as an aid to lactation may be counterproductive. In the short term, mothers may be more relaxed, but the hormonal milieu underlying lactational performance is disrupted, and, in turn, the infant’s milk supply is diminished.
PMCID: PMC1351273  PMID: 15623810
16.  Effects of Alcohol on Psychomotor Performance and Perceived Impairment in Heavy Binge Social Drinkers 
Drug and alcohol dependence  2007;91(1):10-17.
Alcohol intoxication often results in negative consequences; however, specific behavioral and subjective effects often vary as a function of individual differences. The present study utilized an alcohol challenge paradigm to examine whether heavy binge social drinkers (HD; n=77), compared to light social drinkers (LD; n=55), exhibit: 1) greater tolerance in psychomotor task performance under the influence of alcohol, and 2) differential perceptions of the impairing effects of alcohol. The study included three test sessions in which participants consumed either a low (0.4 g/kg) or a high (0.8 g/kg) dose of ethanol or a placebo beverage administered in random order and counterbalanced within group. Participants completed the Digit Symbol Substitution Task (DSST) and the Grooved Pegboard at pre-drink baseline and at multiple time points after beverage consumption. They also completed a scale of perceived impairment at several intervals after beverage consumption. Ethanol impaired performance at the high dose, but not at the low dose (ps < .001). The groups exhibited similar alcohol-induced impairment. However, HD reported lower self-perceived impairment compared to LD, particularly during the early portion of the blood alcohol curve (p < .001) when actual impairment was most pronounced. Thus, this study extends prior research in that habitual binge social drinking does not appear to be associated with tolerance to alcohol's impairing effects on select psychomotor skills. Further, results may have implications for alcohol-related harm as binge social drinkers regularly consume intoxicating doses of alcohol but may not be aware of the physical and cognitive impairments produced by alcohol.
PMCID: PMC2764986  PMID: 17560739
alcohol; binge social drinkers; psychomotor; DSST; Pegboard; perceived impairment
17.  The genetic relationships between ethanol preference, acute ethanol sensitivity and ethanol tolerance in Drosophila melanogaster 
Fly  2011;5(3):191-199.
The relationship between alcohol consumption, sensitivity and tolerance is an important question that has been addressed in humans and rodent models. Studies have shown that alcohol consumption and risk of abuse may correlate with (1) increased sensitivity to the stimulant effects of alcohol, (2) decreased sensitivity to the depressant effects of alcohol and (3) increased alcohol tolerance. However, many conflicting results have been observed. To complement these studies, we utilized a different organism and approach to analyze the relationship between ethanol consumption and other ethanol responses. Using a set of 20 Drosophila melanogaster mutants that were isolated for altered ethanol sensitivity, we measured ethanol-induced hyperactivity, ethanol sedation, sedation tolerance and ethanol consumption preference. Ethanol preference showed a strong positive correlation with ethanol tolerance, consistent with some rodent and human studies, but not with ethanol hyperactivity or sedation. No pairwise correlations were observed between ethanol hyperactivity, sedation and tolerance. The evolutionary conservation of the relationship between tolerance and ethanol consumption in flies, rodents and humans indicates that there are fundamental biological mechanisms linking specific ethanol responses.
PMCID: PMC3225762  PMID: 21750412
ethanol consumption; ethanol sensitivity; tolerance; correlation; Drosophila
18.  Impulsivity Moderates the Relationship Between Implicit Associations about Alcohol and Alcohol Use 
Implicit associations about alcohol are strong predictors of alcohol use, as is the personality trait of impulsivity. This study examines the role of impulsivity as a moderator of the association between implicit associations about alcohol and alcohol use. Two hundred and nineteen participants completed measures of positive and negative implicit associations, as measured by the Implicit Association Test (IAT), and self-report questionnaires of impulsivity and alcohol use in the past month. Trait impulsivity was broken down into five facets identified in previous research. All facets of impulsivity and positive implicit associations about alcohol were positively correlated with past month alcohol use. The urgency facets (positive and negative) of impulsivity (acting rashly in response to strong positive or negative mood) moderated the relationship between positive implicit associations about alcohol and alcohol use. Compared to individuals low on positive or negative urgency, individuals high on positive or negative urgency tended to report acting more in line with their positive implicit associations by reporting more drinking in the past month.
PMCID: PMC3443491  PMID: 22686964
IAT; alcohol; impulsivity; urgency
19.  Subjective and Neural Responses to Intravenous Alcohol in Young Adults with Light and Heavy Drinking Patterns 
Neuropsychopharmacology  2011;37(2):467-477.
Heavy alcohol consumption during young adulthood is a risk factor for the development of serious alcohol use disorders. Research has shown that individual differences in subjective responses to alcohol may affect individuals' vulnerability to developing alcoholism. Studies comparing the subjective and objective response to alcohol between light and heavy drinkers (HDs), however, have yielded inconsistent results, and neural responses to alcohol in these groups have not been characterized. We performed a double-blind, placebo-controlled, randomized crossover alcohol challenge study comparing functional magnetic resonance imaging and subjective response to intravenously administered 6% v/v ethanol to a target blood alcohol concentration of 0.08% or placebo between HDs and social drinkers (SDs). During the imaging, we presented emotional cues in order to measure how emotion modulated the effects of alcohol on the brain's reward circuitry. We found that, at equivalent blood alcohol concentrations, HDs reported lower subjective alcohol effects than SDs. Alcohol significantly activated the nucleus accumbens in SDs, but not in HDs. Self-reported ratings of intoxication correlated with striatal activation, suggesting that activation may reflect subjective experience of intoxication. Fearful faces significantly activated the amygdala in the SDs only, and this activation was attenuated by alcohol. This study shows that HDs not only experience reduced subjective effects of alcohol, but also demonstrate a blunted response to alcohol in the brain's reward system. Our findings indicate that reduced subjective and neural response to alcohol in HDs may be suggestive of either the development of tolerance to alcohol, or of pre-existing decreased sensitivity to alcohol's effects.
PMCID: PMC3242308  PMID: 21956438
alcohol; fMRI; reward; tolerance; alcoholism; nucleus accumbens; alcohol & alcoholism; neuropharmacology; imaging; clinical or preclinical; biological psychiatry; reward; emotion; FMRI; tolerance
20.  Self-Regulation, Daily Drinking, and Partner Violence in Alcohol Treatment-Seeking Men 
This study builds on research identifying deficits in behavioral self-regulation as risk factors for intimate partner violence (IPV). It also builds on alcohol administration research identifying these deficits as moderators of the association between acute alcohol consumption and aggression in laboratory paradigms. Participants analyzed were 97 men seeking residential treatment for alcohol dependence who were involved in a current or recent heterosexual relationship of at least one year. Participants completed a self-report measure of impulsivity, neuropsychological tests of executive function, and computerized delay discounting and behavioral inhibition tasks. With the exception of the self-report measure of impulsivity, performance on measures of behavioral self-regulation was not associated with the occurrence or frequency of past year IPV in this sample. Similarly, self-reported impulsivity moderated the association between daily drinking and IPV in multivariate models controlling for daily drug use, but deficits in performance on other measures did not. Performance on a tower task moderated the association between daily drinking and the occurrence of IPV, but contrary to hypotheses, better task performance was associated with greater likelihood of IPV on drinking days. These results suggest that self-perceived impulsivity is a better predictor of IPV in alcohol treatment seeking men than deficits in performance on behavioral measures of delay discounting, behavioral inhibition, and executive function.
PMCID: PMC3920985  PMID: 23379612
Intimate partner violence; alcohol use disorders; drinking; executive cognitive function; impulsivity; timeline followback
21.  Evaluation of the Influence of Alcohol Dehydrogenase Polymorphisms on Alcohol Elimination Rates in African Americans 
The relationship between alcohol dehydrogenase (ADH) polymorphisms and alcohol use disorders in populations of African descent has not been clearly established. This study examined the effect of ADH1B polymorphisms on alcohol metabolism and subjective response, following intravenous (IV) alcohol administration, and the influence of gender, recent drinking history, and family history of alcoholism (FHA), in nondependent African American drinkers.
The sample included eighty-seven 21- to 35-year-old, light social drinkers of African descent. Participants included 39 sib pairs, 2 sibships with 3 siblings each, and 3 individuals who were not part of a sibship. Participants received infusions via the use of the clamp method that refers to the goal of controlling breath alcohol concentration in 2 randomized sessions at 0.06 g% ethanol and 0 mg% (placebo), and a battery of subjective scales at predefined time points. Dependent measures included alcohol elimination rates (AERs), alcohol disappearance rates (ADRs), subjective measures peak scores, and area under the curve. General linear model and mixed models were performed to examine the relationship between ADH1B genotype, dependent measures, and influence of covariates.
Participants with ADH1B1/1 genotypes showed higher number of drinks (p = 0.023) and drinks per drinking day (p = 0.009) compared with the persons with ADH1B1/3 genotype. AER (adjusted for body weight) was higher in ADH1B*1 homozygotes (p = 0.045) compared with ADH1B1/3 heterozygotes. ADR differed significantly between males and females (p = 0.002), regardless of body weight (p = 0.004) and lean body mass (p < 0.001) adjustments. Although a few subjective measures differed across genotype, all measures were higher in alcohol sessions compared with placebo sessions (p < 0.001). These observations were mediated by drinks per drinking day, gender, and FHA.
ADH1B polymorphism had a marginal effect on alcohol pharmacokinetics following IV alcohol administration in nondependent drinkers of African descent. Session (alcohol vs. placebo) and ADH1B genotype did, however, influence subjective response to alcohol with some variation by gender, FHA, and drinks per drinking day.
PMCID: PMC3946927  PMID: 23915245
Alcohol Dehydrogenase Polymorphisms; Breath Alcohol Clamping; Alcohol Elimination Rate; African Descent Population; Sib Pair Analysis
22.  Psychosocial predictors of impulsivity in alcohol-dependent patients 
Impulsivity is an important risk factor of severe course of alcohol dependence. However, the significance of environmental determinants of impulsivity has been underestimated. The aim of the study was to identify psychosocial factors increasing the level of impulsivity in alcoholics. Levels of impulsivity were measured in 304 alcohol-dependent patients. Stop-signal task was used to assess behavioral impulsivity, and Barratt Impulsiveness Scale to measure global and cognitive impulsivity. Correlations between impulsivity and psychosocial variables were examined. A significant association between level of impulsivity and severity of psychopathological symptoms were observed. Patients who reported childhood sexual or physical abuse, lower social support, more severe course of alcohol dependence were more impulsive, especially in cognitive domain. When entered into a linear regression analysis model, severity of alcohol dependence, psychopathology and childhood physical abuse remained significant. These results suggest that psychosocial variables are important factors associated with high levels of impulsivity in alcohol-dependent patients.
PMCID: PMC3534849  PMID: 23274294
impulsivity; alcohol dependence; sexual abuse; physical abuse
23.  Drinking to Distraction: Does Alcohol Increase Attentional Bias in Adults with ADHD? 
Previous research has shown that social drinkers continue to show attentional bias towards alcohol-related stimuli even after consuming a moderate dose of alcohol. In contrast, little is known about how alcohol acutely affects attentional bias in groups at risk to develop alcohol-related problems, such as adults with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Such individuals may show increased attentional bias following alcohol relative to nonclinical controls. The present study tested this hypothesis by examining acute alcohol effects on attentional bias in 20 social drinkers with ADHD and 20 social drinkers with no history of ADHD. Participants performed a visual-probe task after receiving the following doses of alcohol: 0.64 g/kg, 0.32 g/kg, and 0.0 g/kg (placebo). Those in the ADHD group showed increased attentional bias under active alcohol doses, whereas attentional bias was similar across doses in the control group. Attentional bias predicted ad libitum alcohol consumption during a taste-rating session. This relation was observed only in the ADHD group. These findings indicate that an acute alcohol dose increases attentional bias in adults with ADHD. Further, attentional bias appears to be a predictor of ad libitum consumption in this group.
PMCID: PMC3338153  PMID: 22121850
Attentional bias; ADHD; Alcohol; Ad libitum consumption; At-risk drinkers
24.  Acute Tolerance to Alcohol in At-risk Binge Drinkers 
Studies of the impairing effects of alcohol on behavior often show greater tolerance in heavy drinkers compared to light drinkers, suggesting a causal link between heavy consumption and tolerance. Tolerance also develops during the time-course of a single drinking episode, and this “acute tolerance” might play an important role in the escalation to heavy drinking. The present study examined the development of acute tolerance to the impairing effects of alcohol on motor coordination and inhibitory control in a group of at-risk, binge drinkers (N = 20) and a group of non-risk, moderate drinkers (N = 20). Participants performed the testing battery in response to placebo and a moderate dose of alcohol (0.65 g/kg) twice at comparable blood alcohol concentrations (BACs): once on the ascending limb and once on the descending limb of the blood alcohol curve. Results showed marked acute tolerance to the impairing effects of alcohol on motor coordination in the at-risk drinkers. By contrast, no recovery of motor skill was observed in the non-risk drinkers. Regarding inhibitory control, both groups remained impaired on both the ascending and descending limbs, indicating no acute tolerance in either group. The findings suggest that at-risk, binge drinkers display a faster recovery in their ability to execute versus inhibit action under alcohol. Such an “activational bias” of behavior could account for their continued alcohol consumption and impulsive behaviors while intoxicated, especially as BAC begins to decline.
PMCID: PMC3326440  PMID: 22023021
Alcohol; acute tolerance; binge; inhibitory control; motor coordination
25.  Glass Shape Influences Consumption Rate for Alcoholic Beverages 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(8):e43007.
High levels of alcohol consumption and increases in heavy episodic drinking (binge drinking) are a growing public concern, due to their association with increased risk of personal and societal harm. Alcohol consumption has been shown to be sensitive to factors such as price and availability. The aim of this study was to explore the influence of glass shape on the rate of consumption of alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages.
This was an experimental design with beverage (lager, soft drink), glass (straight, curved) and quantity (6 fl oz, 12 fl oz) as between-subjects factors. Social male and female alcohol consumers (n = 159) attended two experimental sessions, and were randomised to drink either lager or a soft drink from either a curved or straight-sided glass, and complete a computerised task identifying perceived midpoint of the two glasses (order counterbalanced). Ethical approval was granted by the Faculty of Science Research Ethics Committee at the University of Bristol. The primary outcome measures were total drinking time of an alcoholic or non-alcoholic beverage, and perceptual judgement of the half-way point of a straight and curved glass.
Participants were 60% slower to consume an alcoholic beverage from a straight glass compared to a curved glass. This effect was only observed for a full glass and not a half-full glass, and was not observed for a non-alcoholic beverage. Participants also misjudged the half-way point of a curved glass to a greater degree than that of a straight glass, and there was a trend towards a positive association between the degree of error and total drinking time.
Glass shape appears to influence the rate of drinking of alcoholic beverages. This may represent a modifiable target for public health interventions.
PMCID: PMC3422221  PMID: 22912776

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