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Psychol Addict Behav. 2007 Dec;21(4):555-63.

Effects of alcohol sensitivity on P3 event-related potential reactivity to alcohol cues.

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  • 1University of Missouri-Columbia, Department of Psychological Sciences, Columbia, MO 65211, USA.


Although alcoholics and individuals at risk for alcoholism often show smaller amplitude of the P3 event-related brain potential (ERP), recent data (K. Namkoong, E. Lee, C. H. Lee, B. O. Lee, & S. K. An, 2004) indicate that alcohol-related cues elicit larger P3 amplitude in alcoholics than in controls. Little is known concerning the ERP profiles or alcohol cue reactivity of social drinkers at risk for alcoholism due to low sensitivity to alcohol's effects. Participants differing in alcohol sensitivity viewed images of alcoholic and nonalcoholic beverages while ERPs were recorded and provided information about their alcohol use patterns at baseline and 4 months later. Compared to high-sensitivity participants, those low in sensitivity showed larger P3s to alcohol cues, even when recent alcohol use was statistically controlled for. Moreover, the P3 elicited by alcohol cues predicted alcohol use at follow-up, a finding supporting the idea that P3 amplitude reflects the motivational significance of substance-related cues. These findings point to risk status, not consumption history, as an important predictor of cue reactivity effects.

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