An Heuristic Model for the Inherited Predisposition to Alcoholism


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Abstract

A research program studying individuals genetically at high risk for alcoholism is presented. Multigenerational nonproblem-drinking sons of male alcoholics display a pattern of autonomic hyperreactivity to a variety of stimuli. This pattern of reactivity is significantly dampened by high doses of alcohol. These individuals also display difficulty on cognitive tests suggestive of prefrontal lobe dysfunction. This response pattern is not characteristic of controls nor of daughters of multigenerational male alcoholics. A model is presented that hypothesizes a cognitive disturbance underlying the hyperreactivity and posits a problem in the attribution of meaning to novel stimuli and threatening events.

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