The primary goal of this project is to improve understanding of the changes in emotional behavior caused by alcoholism. Specifically, we will examine whether abstinent alcoholics demonstrate persistent change in their reactions to different types of stress-inducing stimuli. In the proposed project, alcoholics who have been abstinent for 4-8 weeks and non-alcoholic controls will view a series of visual stimuli separated into predictable shock blocks, unpredictable shock blocks, and no shock blocks. The shock blocks are proposed to model the emotional experiences of fear and anxiety, respectively. Auditory startle probes will be presented throughout the experimental session, and participants'EMG activity will be recorded to index their physiological responses to the various stimuli. Based on our previous research and the extant literature, we predict that abstinent alcoholics, relative to non-alcoholic controls, will show increased startle potentiation in response to unpredictable shock (i.e. anxiety) but will show comparable levels of startle potentiation in response to traditional fear conditioning stimuli (predictable shock). We will follow-up with alcoholic participants after six months to assess their drinking behavior outcomes. These data, along with participants'psychophysiological data will be used in exploratory analyses designed to consider their utility for predicting length of abstinence and likelihood of relapse. The study of emotional behavior in abstinent alcoholics is relevant to public health because alcoholism is a common, chronic, relapsing disorder which annually costs the US over $100 billion. The links between stress and drinking among problem drinkers are many, and further understanding of these mechanisms will help improve treatment decision-making and hopefully outcomes;this information may be of import to policymakers as well. The use of a cross-species procedure and dependent measure (i.e. the startle reflex) suggest that this particular research project can provide a critical link between preclinical work in this area and human addiction research.
|Moberg, Christine A; Bradford, Daniel E; Kaye, Jesse T et al. (2017) Increased startle potentiation to unpredictable stressors in alcohol dependence: Possible stress neuroadaptation in humans. J Abnorm Psychol 126:441-453|