The primary objective of this project is to elucidate how bottom-up (e.g., urges for alcohol's reinforcing effects) and top-down (e.g., the ability to control urges for rewarding/thrilling sensations) processes are related to problematic alcohol use at the phenotypic, latent genetic and environmental, and genotypic levels.
Specific Aims There are two primary research aims of this project.
The first aim i s to investigate whether bottom-up and top- down processes account for common mechanisms of risk for problematic alcohol use. Two analytic approaches will be used to address this aim: 1) analyses will investigate the degree to which these processes account for common phenotypic, latent genetic, or latent environmental variance in alcohol outcomes, and 2) a [pilot investigation will examine] whether there are genetic markers associated with bottom-up and/or top-down processes that are also associated with problematic alcohol use.
The second aim i s to investigate whether there are interaction effects between these processes that explain problematic alcohol use at the phenotypic and latent genetic levels. Analytic approaches addressing this aim will investigate whether top-down (i.e., control-based) processes moderate the relationship between bottom-up (i.e., urge-based) processes and alcohol outcomes [and whether genetic factors account for that moderation effect]. Analyses will be conducted in two datasets, a multiwave dataset of adults (followed from ages 18 to 35) that includes genotypic data and a national community-based twin registry of adults (mean age=37). Significance The results from this project offer to provide important foundational work for translating basic personality and genetic research to applied contexts. For example, some interventions for alcohol use disorder attempt to specifically target bottom-up or top-down processes, and findings from the current project may facilitate the development of effective interventions.

Public Health Relevance

Opinions vary widely in regards to whether problematic alcohol use is the result of intense urges to experience alcohol's intoxicating effects, an inabiliy to control one's urges, or some combination of the two. Very few studies have actually investigated an interaction between these risk factors, and no studies have investigated whether these risk factors are influenced by common genetic or environmental factors. Understanding whether, and how, urges to use alcohol are distinct from the ability to resist those urges will be important for developing theoretical models of alcohol use and informing prevention and intervention efforts that target alcohol use disorder.

National Institute of Health (NIH)
National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA)
Predoctoral Individual National Research Service Award (F31)
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Health Services Research Review Subcommittee (AA)
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Scott, Marcia S
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University of Missouri-Columbia
Schools of Arts and Sciences
United States
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Ellingson, Jarrod M; Fleming, Kimberly A; Verg├ęs, Alvaro et al. (2014) Working memory as a moderator of impulsivity and alcohol involvement: testing the cognitive-motivational theory of alcohol use with prospective and working memory updating data. Addict Behav 39:1622-31
Ellingson, Jarrod M; Verges, Alvaro; Littlefield, Andrew K et al. (2013) Are bottom-up and top-down traits in dual-systems models of risky behavior genetically distinct? Behav Genet 43:480-90