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J Stud Alcohol. 2004 May;65(3):301-8.

EEG alpha and level of response to alcohol in Hispanic- and non-Hispanic-American young adults with a family history of alcoholism.

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Department of Neuropharmacology, Scripps Research Institute, Department of Psychiaty, University of California, San Diego, USA.



A person's level of response to alcohol is associated with family history of alcoholism, ethnic heritage and electroencephalogram (EEG) phenotype. The present study's aims were to investigate EEG alpha and response to alcohol in Hispanic-American and non-Hispanic-American young adults.


EEG power in the slow and fast alpha frequency ranges (7.5-9 Hz, 9-12 Hz) was obtained at baseline and at 74 minutes following the administration of alcohol to Hispanic-American (n = 79) and white non-Hispanic-American (n = 208) young adult men and women (18-25 years old), all of whom had a family history but no personal history of alcohol dependence. Measures of breath alcohol concentrations and subjective responses to alcohol (Subjective High Assessment Scale [SHAS]) also were ascertained.


Alcohol was found to produce significant effects on EEG power in the slow (F = 79.5, p < .0001) alpha frequency range. Although no overall effects of alcohol were found in the fast alpha frequency range, Hispanic participants had decreases in EEG fast alpha activity following alcohol administration, whereas non-Hispanics had alcohol-induced increases in power in this frequency range (F = 4.0, p < .04). EEG power, in the fast alpha frequency range (9-12 Hz) at baseline, also was found to be negatively associated with level of response to alcohol, as indexed by SHAS scores (F = 5.2, 2/283 df, p < .023).


Previous studies in Native Americans, Asians and Euro-Americans have suggested genetic stratification in EEG response to alcohol as well as significant associations with family history of alcoholism. The present results extend previous studies to Hispanics and further confirm that increased EEG alpha power at baseline is predictive of a less intense response to alcohol, as indexed by the SHAS.

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