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Alcohol. 1993 Jul-Aug;10(4):269-74.

P300 in heavy social drinkers: the effect of lorazepam.

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  • 1Department of Psychology, University of Tasmania, Hobart, Australia.


The P300 component of the event-related potential (ERP) and reaction time (RT) were recorded during a simulated driving task using an oddball paradigm. ERPs and RTs were recorded from heavy social drinkers (n = 11) and low social drinkers (n = 11). A pharmacological challenge (lorazepam-ATIVAN) was administered to both groups in a double-blind procedure. In both groups, P300 amplitude was reduced and RT was increased by the presence of lorazepam; however, heavy social drinkers had longer latency P300 than low social drinkers regardless of the drug condition. The P300 amplitude results are consistent with reduced information processing being induced by lorazepam, or with reduced effectiveness of the eliciting stimuli. On the other hand, the P300 latency results suggest that P300 latency may reflect deficits in information processing induced by alcohol abuse or may have preceded the alcohol abuse. The P300 latency results are consistent with heavy social drinkers occupying an early point on the hypothesized continuum of alcohol-related brain damage.

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