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Cardiac Reactivity During the Ascending Phase of Acute Intravenous Alcohol Exposure and Association with Subjective Perceptions of Intoxication in Social Drinkers

Authors

  • Vatsalya Vatsalya,

    1. Section on Human Psychopharmacology , Laboratory of Clinical and Translational Studies, National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, Bethesda, Maryland
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  • Reza Momenan,

    1. Section of Brain Electrophysiology and Imaging , Laboratory of Clinical and Translational Studies, National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, Bethesda, Maryland
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  • Daniel W. Hommer,

    1. Section of Brain Electrophysiology and Imaging , Laboratory of Clinical and Translational Studies, National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, Bethesda, Maryland
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    • Deceased.
  • Vijay A. Ramchandani

    Corresponding author
    1. Section on Human Psychopharmacology , Laboratory of Clinical and Translational Studies, National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, Bethesda, Maryland
    • Reprint requests: Vijay A. Ramchandani, PhD, Chief, Section on Human Psychopharmacology, LCTS, National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, 10 Center Drive, Room 2-2352 Bethesda MD 20892-1540; Tel.: 301-402-8527; Fax: 301-402-1543; E-mail: vijayr@mail.nih.gov

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Abstract

Background

The aim of this study was to characterize cardiac reactivity measures, heart rate (HR), and heart rate variability (HRV), following acute intravenous (IV) alcohol administration and their association with subjective responses in social drinkers.

Methods

Twenty-four subjects (11 females) received IV alcohol infusions to attain and clamp the breath alcohol concentration (BrAC) at 50 mg% or placebo in separate sessions. Serial 5-minute cardiac recordings at baseline and during the infusion were analyzed to obtain frequency and time domain cardiac measures. Self-reported subjective perceptions were also obtained at the same time points.

Results

HR showed significant decreases from baseline, while the HRV measure pNN50 showed steady increases during the ascending phase of alcohol infusion. HR was inversely correlated with pNN50 across time and treatment. There was a significant association of HR with subjective feelings of high, intoxication, feeling drug effects, and liking drug effects across time during the ascending phase.

Conclusions

Acute IV alcohol resulted in decreases in HR and increases in HRV consistent with autonomic parasympathetic activation. The association of these changes with subjective responses suggests that cardiac reactivity may serve as a physiological marker of subjective alcohol effects. This study broadens the understanding of acute cardiovascular effects of alcohol and clinically significant cardiac conditions such as arrhythmia and cardiomyopathy associated with chronic alcohol drinking.

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