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Biol Psychiatry. 1999 Oct 1;46(7):970-81.

Developmental delay in P300 production in children at high risk for developing alcohol-related disorders.

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  • 1Department of Psychiatry, University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, PA 15213, USA.



Reduction of P300 amplitude in children and adolescents at high risk for developing alcoholism has frequently been reported. It has been hypothesized that this reduction represents a developmental delay in reaching age-appropriate levels in P300 amplitude. Using latent growth analysis of longitudinal data obtained at yearly intervals, this study seeks to define normal growth, and determine if the pattern seen in high-risk children differs from that obtained in normal low-risk controls.


A total of 156 children from either high or low-risk families have been assessed multiple times (two-thirds more than 4 times) using both a clinical assessment (K-SADS) and ERP evaluation performed on the same day. A total of 635 separate assessments were available for modeling.


Quadratic growth curves revealed a slower rate of change in P300 amplitude in high-risk than low-risk males. High-risk girls showed reduced visual P300 amplitude only when the presence of a K-SADS diagnosis was considered. No differences were seen for P300 latency.


This study confirms the hypothesis that when reduction of P300 amplitude is seen in males at high risk for developing alcoholism, it is due to a developmental delay.

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