Event-Related Potentials in Alcoholic Men: P3 Amplitude Reflects Family History But Not Alcohol Consumption

Authors

  • Adolf Pfefferbaum,

    1. Laboratory of Physiological and Structural Brain Imaging, Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, Stanford University School of Medicine, Stanford, California, and the Department of Veterans Affairs Medical Center (116A3), Palo Alto, California
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  • Judith M. Ford,

    Corresponding author
    1. Laboratory of Physiological and Structural Brain Imaging, Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, Stanford University School of Medicine, Stanford, California, and the Department of Veterans Affairs Medical Center (116A3), Palo Alto, California
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  • Patricia M. White,

    1. Laboratory of Physiological and Structural Brain Imaging, Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, Stanford University School of Medicine, Stanford, California, and the Department of Veterans Affairs Medical Center (116A3), Palo Alto, California
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  • Daniel Mathalon

    1. Laboratory of Physiological and Structural Brain Imaging, Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, Stanford University School of Medicine, Stanford, California, and the Department of Veterans Affairs Medical Center (116A3), Palo Alto, California
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  • This work was supported by National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (AA-05965) and the Department of Veterans Affairs.

Reprint requests: Judith M. Ford, Ph.D., Psychiatry Research (116A3), DVA Medical Center, 3801 Miranda Avenue, Palo Alto, CA 94304.

Abstract

Multilead event-related potentials (ERPs), elicited by auditory and visual stimuli requiring a button press response and by a startling noise requiring no response, were recorded from male alcoholics and age-matched male controls (26–60 years old). Single-trial analyses of blink responses to the startling stimuli indicated that alcoholics startle less frequently but with equivalent amplitude as the controls. In contrast, single-trial analyses of P3 indicated that alcoholics generate a P3 as often as controls, but that their individual P3s are smaller. Alcoholics who reported a positive family history of problem drinking had larger startle blink amplitudes and smaller auditory and visual P3s than did alcoholics who reported a negative family history. Hierarchical regression analysis was used to demonstrate that smaller P3s in family history positive alcoholics were independent of lifetime alcohol consumption.

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