Specificity of P3 Event-Related Potential Reactivity to Alcohol Cues in Individuals Low in Alcohol Sensitivity


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Abstract

Recent research using event-related potentials (ERPs) has shown that individuals low in alcohol sensitivity show increased P3 reactivity to alcohol cues (Bartholow, Henry, & Lust, 2007). The current research sought to test the specificity of this effect by including other arousing cues in addition to alcohol, and by controlling for individual differences in trait impulsivity. Forty-seven participants varying in self-reported alcohol sensitivity completed a visual oddball task including neutral, arousing (erotic and adventure-related), and beverage-related images while ERPs were recorded. Low-sensitivity participants showed increased P3 reactivity to alcohol cues relative to their high-sensitivity peers. However, P3 amplitude elicited by all other targets did not differ as a function of alcohol sensitivity levels. Differences in impulsivity and recent alcohol consumption did not account for sensitivity group differences in alcohol cue reactivity. These results point to the specific motivational salience of alcohol cues to individuals at risk for alcohol problems because of low alcohol sensitivity and suggest that P3 reactivity to alcohol cues could be a new endophenotype for alcohol use disorder risk.

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