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Eur Addict Res. 2015;21(4):195-203. doi: 10.1159/000371723. Epub 2015 Apr 21.

Changes on the Modulation of the Startle Reflex in Alcohol-Dependent Patients after 12 Weeks of a Cognitive-Behavioral Intervention.

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1
Department of Psychiatry, School of Medicine, Complutense University of Madrid, Madrid, Spain.

Abstract

AIMS:

Little is known about changes in the modulation of the startle reflex when patients go through an alcohol-dependence treatment in an outpatient facility. In the current study, the affective modulation of the cue-related startle reflex has been used to evaluate changes in the emotional processing of alcohol-related stimuli that occurred after a standard cognitive-behavioral intervention, and to assess the outcome of this intervention. We hypothesized a 'normalization' of the startle inhibition for the alcohol-related cues during the period of treatment. We also assumed that higher startle inhibition at baseline elicited by alcohol cues would predict the relapse on alcohol consumption during treatment.

PARTICIPANTS:

A total of 98 alcohol-dependent subjects were included who fulfilled DSM-IV criteria for alcohol dependence. A control group of 72 subjects was selected to match demographic characteristics.

MEASUREMENTS:

All patients received a standard cognitive-behavioral therapy once a week throughout the study period.

FINDINGS:

Results show that the startle response differed significantly after 12 weeks of treatment for alcohol-related, neutral and aversive stimuli between alcohol-dependent patients and controls. Low startle responses at baseline to alcohol cues predicted relapse.

CONCLUSIONS:

These results may indicate that the startle reflex is referred to enduring and permanent processes of cue reactivity, and that the emotional processing of alcohol-associated cues assessed with the affect-modulated startle reflex is less altered by interventions attempting to influence explicit cognitions. Furthermore, lower values of the baseline startle reflex elicited by alcohol-associated stimuli were associated with higher probability of relapse on alcohol use.

PMID:
25896747
DOI:
10.1159/000371723
[Indexed for MEDLINE]
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