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Keywords:

  • Substance use disorders;
  • Personality disorders;
  • Skin conductance

Abstract

Poor electrodermal response modulation is associated with substance use disorders, but the specificity of the relationship has not been tested. To test this, 112 college students were assessed for psychiatric symptoms using structured interviews and for ability to modulate skin conductance responses to 2-s 92- or 110-dB white noise blasts that varied in temporal predictability. Twenty-eight good and 28 poor modulators were compared on symptoms of alcohol and illicit drug use disorders, personality disorders (antisocial, borderline, histrionic, and narcissistic), social and specific phobia, and depression. As expected, poor modulators had significantly more symptoms of substance use disorders than good modulators. Groups did not differ in symptoms of anxiety disorder, depression, or personality disorders marked by disinhibition. Poor electrodermal response modulation may reflect a biological risk factor for substance use disorders in particular.