Our long-term goal is to develop a better understanding of persons at risk for alcoholism. Alcohol addiction is a behavioral disorder that has genetic and environmental contributions. Prevalence within families and adoption studies indicate that the risk for alcoholism is one expression of more basic traits that have heritable components. The planned studies are based on the hypothesis that central nervous system processes that integrate emotional behavior are altered in persons at high risk for alcoholism relative to low risk persons. We predict that altered emotion processing will have three markers that should distinguish high-risk individuals. These are: 1) the person's characteristic balance of positive to negative emotions, 2) emotion-related changes in the stress hormone, cortisol, and 3) a measure of emotion-related change in central activation, the startle eyeblink. A random telephone survey of the Oklahoma City area will be used to identify 180 men and women, 18-25 years of age, who are low risk, having a negative family history of alcoholism and social drinking patterns, or high risk, with a positive family history and social drinking patterns. Two related studies are proposed. In Study 1, we will compare the groups using a standard paradigm to examine startle eyeblink magnitude and the emotion modulation of startle that normally occurs to negative and positive emotion-producing stimuli. In Study 2, we will extend that paradigm by examining the emotion modulation of the startle eyeblink together with cortisol responses to a negatively affective challenge. Normal affective response to events depends on interactions among the frontal cortex and limbic areas, while the expression of emotions via motoric and endocrine responses depends on normal regulation by the hypothalamus and brainstem. A finding of consistent changes in affective experience, along with altered peripheral physiological responses, can provide insights into the underlying alterations in emotional behavior in risk for alcoholism.

National Institute of Health (NIH)
National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA)
Research Project (R01)
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Special Emphasis Panel (ZRG1-BBBP-2 (01))
Program Officer
Witt, Ellen
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University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center
Schools of Medicine
Oklahoma City
United States
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Lovallo, William R; Cohoon, Andrew J; Acheson, Ashley et al. (2018) Blunted stress reactivity reveals vulnerability to early life adversity in young adults with a family history of alcoholism. Addiction :
Buchanan, Tony W; Lovallo, William R (2018) The role of genetics in stress effects on health and addiction. Curr Opin Psychol 27:72-76
Lovallo, William R; Enoch, Mary-Anne; Sorocco, Kristen H et al. (2017) Joint Impact of Early Life Adversity and COMT Val158Met (rs4680) Genotypes on the Adult Cortisol Response to Psychological Stress. Psychosom Med 79:631-637
Acheson, Ashley; Lake, Sarah L; Bray, Bethany C et al. (2016) Early Adolescent Trajectories of Impulsiveness and Sensation Seeking in Children of Fathers with Histories of Alcohol and Other Substance Use Disorders. Alcohol Clin Exp Res 40:2622-2630
Lovallo, William R; Enoch, Mary-Anne; Acheson, Ashley et al. (2016) Early-Life Adversity Interacts with FKBP5 Genotypes: Altered Working Memory and Cardiac Stress Reactivity in the Oklahoma Family Health Patterns Project. Neuropsychopharmacology 41:1724-32
Dager, Alecia D; McKay, D Reese; Kent Jr, Jack W et al. (2015) Shared genetic factors influence amygdala volumes and risk for alcoholism. Neuropsychopharmacology 40:412-20
Acheson, Ashley; Tagamets, Malle A; Winkler, Anderson et al. (2015) Striatal activity and reduced white matter increase frontal activity in youths with family histories of alcohol and other substance-use disorders performing a go/no-go task. Brain Behav 5:e00352
Sorocco, Kristen H; Carnes, Nathan C; Cohoon, Andrew J et al. (2015) Risk factors for alcoholism in the Oklahoma Family Health Patterns project: impact of early life adversity and family history on affect regulation and personality. Drug Alcohol Depend 150:38-45
Lovallo, William R; Enoch, Mary-Anne; Acheson, Ashley et al. (2015) Cortisol Stress Response in Men and Women Modulated Differentially by the Mu-Opioid Receptor Gene Polymorphism OPRM1 A118G. Neuropsychopharmacology 40:2546-54
Acheson, Ashley; Wijtenburg, S Andrea; Rowland, Laura M et al. (2014) Combining diffusion tensor imaging and magnetic resonance spectroscopy to study reduced frontal white matter integrity in youths with family histories of substance use disorders. Hum Brain Mapp 35:5877-87

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