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1.  NEUROPHYSIOLOGICAL CORRELATES OF MODERATE ALCOHOL CONSUMPTION IN OLDER AND YOUNGER SOCIAL DRINKERS 
Introduction
Nearly 40% of adults aged 65 and older in the United States consume alcohol. Research in older adults has largely examined potential health effects of a moderate drinking lifestyle. Examination of acute effects in this population is generally lacking. To investigate alcohol-induced alteration of electrophysiological correlates of attention in this population, we employed a covert attentional task. We hypothesized that moderate alcohol administration as well as older age would reduce P3 amplitude and increase latency. We anticipated an interaction such that, relative to their age-matched controls, older adults receiving alcohol would be more affected than their younger counterparts.
Methods
Participants included healthy older (aged 50–67; n = 20; 9 men) and younger (aged 25–35; n = 12; 5 men) moderate drinkers. Participants received either a moderate dose of alcohol (breath alcohol concentration [BrAC] ~50 mg/dl) or a placebo beverage. Following absorption, the task was administered and neurophysiological measures were obtained. P3 amplitude and latency were separately subjected to ANOVA across cue conditions using age and dose as independent variables.
Results
As predicted, P3 amplitude in older adults was significantly lower than younger adults across cue conditions. An age by alcohol interaction was detected, revealing that older adults receiving alcohol showed lower P3 amplitudes than any other group. An age effect for P3 latency was found, with older adults having longer latencies than their younger counterparts. A significant age by alcohol interaction for P3 latency was detected, revealing that older adults receiving alcohol displayed delayed P3 latencies relative to older adults receiving placebo. In contrast, younger adults receiving alcohol had reduced latency compared to those receiving placebo although this effect did not reach significance.
Conclusions
Results suggest that older adults demonstrated alcohol related shifts in P3 characteristics during an intentional attention task, whereas younger adults failed to demonstrate this pattern.
doi:10.1111/acer.12055
PMCID: PMC3620967  PMID: 23278355
moderate alcohol; aging; attention; neurophysiology; P3
2.  DIFFERENTIAL EFFECTS OF MODERATE ALCOHOL CONSUMPTION ON PERFORMANCE AMONG OLDER AND YOUNGER ADULTS 
Background
Studies exploring differential effects of acute alcohol consumption on younger and older adults are lacking within the field of alcohol research, especially those using moderate doses. Previous studies addressing this question have tended to use complex behavioral tasks too broad to isolate specific neurocognitive processes affected by both alcohol and aging. Compromises in cognitive efficiency (i.e. the ability to respond both quickly and accurately) have previously been identified in both elderly and acutely intoxicated individuals.
Methods
The present study employed a visual-spatial, two-choice reaction time task to evaluate the interactive effects of aging and alcohol on cognitive efficiency. Our primary outcome measure was an efficiency ratio derived from each participant’s response accuracy (ACC) and mean reaction time (RT) (%correct/RT). Younger (25 – 35; n=22) and older (55 – 74; n=37) participants were randomly assigned to receive either a placebo or moderate alcohol dose intended to produce a peak BrAC of 0.04%. Participants performed the task at peak alcohol levels.
Results:
A significant interaction between age group and dose assignment was observed (F3,55=4.86, p=.03) for the efficiency ratio. Younger participants who received alcohol performed significantly better than did their older counterparts regardless of alcohol condition and despite no differences in performance between the two age groups in the placebo condition. Additional correlation analyses between ACC and RT suggested that moderately intoxicated older adults become more accurate as response times increase. This relationship was not observed in older adults in the placebo condition.
Conclusions
These data suggest that healthy individuals exhibit a differential susceptibility to the effects of alcohol depending on their age. Unfortunately, due to the presumed safety of moderate alcohol doses and a lack of studies investigating the interactive effects of acute alcohol consumption and aging, most individuals are unlikely to be aware of this relationship between alcohol consumption and age.
doi:10.1111/j.1530-0277.2012.01833.x
PMCID: PMC3424337  PMID: 22591190
Alcohol; aging; cognition; speed-accuracy trade-off
3.  CONTRASTING BEHAVIORAL EFFECTS OF ACUTE NICOTINE AND CHRONIC SMOKING IN DETOXIFIED ALCOHOLICS 
Addictive behaviors  2011;36(12):1344-1348.
Background
Current literature suggests that acute nicotine administration provides a compensatory mechanism by which alcoholics might alleviate attentional deficits. In contrast, chronic smoking is increasingly recognized as negatively affecting neurobehavioral integrity. These opposing effects have not been simultaneously examined. Thus, we sought to a) extend previous work by exploring the effects of acute nicotine effects on vigilance components of attention and replicate previous findings suggesting that treatment-seeking alcoholics experience benefit to a greater extent than do other groups; and b) to examine the impact of chronic smoking on these tasks and across subgroups.
Methods
Substance abusing participants (N=86) were recruited and subgrouped on the basis of dependency criteria as either alcoholics, alcoholics with co-morbid stimulant dependence, or stimulant dependent individuals. Groups of cigarette-smoking (N=17) and non-smoking (N=22) community controls were recruited as comparison groups. Smoking subjects were assigned a placebo, low, or high dose nicotine patch in a double-blind placebo controlled fashion. Non-smoking controls were administered either a placebo or low dose. Testing occurred after dose stabilization.
Results
General linear models indicated greater sensitivity to acute nicotine administration among alcoholics than other groups when controlling for the effect of intensity of smoking history, as reflected by pack-years. Pack-years correlated negatively with performance measures in alcoholics but not stimulant abusing subgroups or smoking controls. Finally, regression analyses demonstrated that pack-years predicted poorer performance only for the alcoholic subgroup.
Conclusions
These results support previous work finding a compensatory effect of acute nicotine administration on attentional performance in alcoholics and reinforce the consideration of recent nicotine use as a confound in neurocognitive studies of alcoholics. Of particular interest is the finding that smoking history as reflected in pack-years predicted poorer performance, but only among alcoholics. Further systematic study of these opposing effects among alcoholics and other groups using a broader array of tasks is needed.
doi:10.1016/j.addbeh.2011.07.038
PMCID: PMC3179837  PMID: 21855223
alcohol; neurocognition; attention; nicotine; smoking
4.  Nicotine Effects on Immediate and Delayed Verbal Memory After Substance Use Detoxification 
Decrements in verbal memory are commonly reported by detoxified treatment-seeking individuals. Although acute nicotine has been shown to improve attentional performance, its effects on verbal memory in substance abusers have not been addressed. Treatment-seeking alcohol dependent (ALCS N=29; 14 male), illicit stimulant (predominantly cocaine) dependent (STIMS N = 25; 15 male) and alcohol and illicit stimulant dependent (ALC/STIMS N = 50; 35 male) participants with co-morbid nicotine dependence were studied. Subjects had been abstinent from their drugs of choice for 41(±18) days and were in short-term abstinence from tobacco (~8–10 hours). Subjects received double-blind administration of either transdermal nicotine (High dose: 21/14 mg for men and women, respectively or Low dose: 7 mg) or placebo. The Logical Memory (LM) subtest from the Wechsler Memory Scale -Revised (WMS-R) was used to assess immediate and delayed verbal memory recall. Results indicated that STIMS receiving the high dose of nicotine recalled more words at immediate recall than STIMS who received placebo. Trend level differences were also noted at delayed recall between STIM nicotine and placebo doses. Nicotine failed to impact either recall in alcoholic subgroups. Although not the primary focus, results also revealed differences in the forgetting rates between the groups with the ALC/STIMS demonstrating the steepest forgetting slope. In summary, this study suggests that nicotine effects may be differentially experienced by substance using subgroups; that nicotine may have a direct effect on memory and, that considering neurocognitive processes (e.g., encoding vs. retrieval) underlying endpoint indicators (e.g. correct recall) may be critical in predicting outcomes.
doi:10.1080/13803395.2010.543887
PMCID: PMC3146969  PMID: 21526444
5.  Nicotine as a Factor in Stress Responsiveness Among Detoxified Alcoholics 
Aims: The effect of transdermal nicotine on stress reactivity was investigated in currently smoking, detoxified, substance-dependent individuals (65% alcohol dependent, n = 51; 31 male) following a psychosocial stressor. Methods: Using a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled design, subjects were assigned to receive either active transdermal nicotine (low or high dose) or placebo. Six hours following nicotine administration, subjects performed a laboratory psychosocial stressor consisting of two 4-min public-speaking sessions. Results: Consistent with prior reports, substance-dependent individuals displayed a blunted stress response. However, a review of the cortisol distribution data encouraged additional analyses. Notably, a significant minority of the substance-dependent individuals (33%) demonstrated elevated poststress cortisol levels. This group of responders was more likely to be alcohol dependent and to have received the high dose of nicotine [χ2(2) = 32, P < 0.0001], [χ2(2) = 18.66, P < 0.0001]. Differences in salivary cortisol responses between responders and nonresponders could not be accounted for by the length of sobriety, nicotine withdrawal levels, anxiety or depressive symptomatology at the time of the psychosocial stressor. Conclusion: These results suggest that nicotine administration may support a normalization of the salivary cortisol response following psychosocial stress in subgroups of substance-dependent individuals, particularly those who are alcohol dependent. Given the association between blunted cortisol levels and relapse, and the complex actions of nicotine at central and peripheral sites, these findings support the systematic study of factors including nicotine, which may influence stress reactivity and the recovery process in alcohol-dependent individuals.
doi:10.1093/alcalc/agq070
PMCID: PMC3002844  PMID: 21045074
6.  The Role of Selected Factors in the Development and Consequences of Alcohol Dependence 
Alcohol Research & Health  2008;31(4):389-399.
Gender, family history, comorbid psychiatric and substance use disorders, and age all influence a person’s risk for alcoholism. In addition, these factors interact with alcoholism to influence neurocognitive functioning following detoxification. This article examines these factors and considers how they interact with each other. This complexity reinforces the need for both animal and human studies and suggests multiple factors that may be sensitive to differential prevention, intervention, and treatment efforts. Thus, it is imperative that hypothesis-driven research designs be directed to identifying the relative potency of these factors and their interactions.
PMCID: PMC3860467  PMID: 23584012
Alcoholism; alcohol and other drug (AOD) dependence; risk factors; genetic factors; family factors; environmental factors; gender differences; family AOD use (AODU) history; comorbidity; multiple drug use; age of AODU onset; AOD effects; brain

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