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Cogn Affect Behav Neurosci. 2018 Feb;18(1):43-57. doi: 10.3758/s13415-017-0551-7.

Altered oscillatory brain dynamics of emotional processing in young binge drinkers.

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Department of Psychology, San Diego State University, San Diego, CA, USA.
Department of Biology, San Diego State University, San Diego, CA, USA.
Department of Psychology, San Diego State University, San Diego, CA, USA.
Department of Radiology, University of California, San Diego, CA, USA.


Heavy episodic drinking, also termed binge drinking, is commonly practiced by young adults. It is accompanied by a range of cognitive, affective, and social problems, but the neural dynamics underlying changes in emotional functions is poorly understood. To investigate the behavioral and brain indices of affective processing as a function of binge drinking, young, healthy participants (23.3 ± 3.3 years) were assigned to two groups (n = 32 each) based on their drinking habits. Binge drinking (BD) participants reported drinking heavily with at least five binge episodes in the last 6 months, whereas light drinkers (LD) reported no more than one binge episode in the last 6 months. Participants provided subjective ratings of emotionally evocative images with negative, positive, erotic, and neutral themes mostly selected from the International Affective Picture System (IAPS). Electroencephalography (EEG) signal was recorded with a 64-channel system and analyzed in theta frequency band (4-7 Hz) with Morlet wavelets. Subjective ratings of the IAPS pictures were equivalent across both groups. However, affective modulation of event-related theta power both during early appraisal and later integrative processing stages was attenuated in BD, particularly those engaging in high-intensity drinking. These findings suggest that binge drinking is associated with altered neurophysiological indices of affective functions that are reflected in lower theta responsivity to emotions. The blunted long-range cortico-cortical and corticolimbic integration is consistent with compromised affective functions in alcohol use disorder. These findings may have implications for diagnostic and intervention strategies in heavy alcohol users.


Binge drinking; EEG; Emotional processing; International Affective Picture System; Theta oscillations

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