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J Neural Transm (Vienna). 2006 Oct;113(10):1519-35. Epub 2006 Apr 11.

Physiological and subjective responding to alcohol cue exposure in alcoholics and control subjects: evidence for appetitive responding.

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  • 1Department of Psychiatry, New York University School of Medicine, New York, NY 10010, USA.


36 alcoholic patients, recruited from a treatment program, and 20 non-alcohol abusing control subjects were tested for their reactions to alcohol and non-alcohol cues. The cue exposure paradigm included audio-visual (video), tactile, olfactory, and guided imagery cue components related to alcohol and non-alcohol beverages. Response measures were analyzed for significant difference based on alcohol and non-alcohol cue and patient type. Among the subjective ratings, alcohol cue specific increases in alcohol craving, desire to drink, alcohol-like high, positive drinking expectancies and alcohol-like withdrawal were seen in alcoholic subjects. Among the physiological measures, alcohol cue specific increases in salivation were seen in alcoholic subjects. Changes in heart rate, skin conductance and temperature were not specific to alcohol cues, or to alcoholic patients. The smelling of alcohol had the greatest impact on alcohol craving and skin conductance in alcoholic subjects. These findings demonstrate robust subjective effects, and weak physiological effects, in response to a multidimensional alcohol cue exposure paradigm. The response profile indicates cue reactivity in alcoholics as an appetitive based form of alcohol craving.

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