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Biol Psychol. 1979 Nov;9(3):189-200.

EEG and autonomic responding to verbal, spatial and emotionally arousing tasks: differences among adults, adolescents and inhalant abusers.


The present study investigated the physiological responses of an adolescent inhalant abuse group, an adolescent non-abuse group, and an adult non-abuse group elicited by three types of tasks: verbal, spatial, and emotionally arousing. Each group consisted of 10 male Mexican-American subjects. Bilateral EEG and electrodermal activity, as well as heart rate, were monitored. While exploring for possible heart rate and hemispheric alpha wave differences in response to predominantly verbal and spatial tasks, an attempt was also made to discover if electrodermal responses could be bilaterally differentiated. Another purpose of the study was to explore possible psychophysiological differences between a younger and older group, and between an inhalant abusing group and a non-abuse group, in response to the three types of tasks. Results indicated that attempts to produce task-related EEG hemispheric asymmetry were largely nonsuccessful. Bilateral electrodermal responses were also not greatly differentiated. It was suggested that stronger task manipulations were needed. Significant group differences were found for initial physiological response levels (adults demonstrated higher levels than the two adolescent groups) and for heart rate response to the emotionally arousing task (non-abusing subjects demonstrated greater heart rate acceleration than inhalant abusing subjects). It was suggested that group differences in initial levels occurred due to the adult groups's greater involvement in the experimental situation. Heart rate differences to the emotionally arousing situation were discussed in terms of Zuckerman's sensation seeking hypothesis.

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