It is proposed that alcoholics are characterized by large conditioned compensatory responses, opposite in direction to the effect of alcohol, to alcohol related cues. This response is thought to play a major role in the etiology of alcoholism and in relapse. The classical conditioning model of drug dependency has been extensively supported in the animal literature. Pilot data from this laboratory represents the first controlled evidence of the conditioned compensatory response in human subjects, which consisted of decreased pulse transmission time (""""""""pounding heart"""""""") and decreased fingers skin temperature and finger pulse amplitude (""""""""cold hands""""""""). The proposed research provides a critical test of the conditioned compensatory response to alcohol cues in human subjects, and assesses its significance in the etiology of alcoholism. The first proposed experiment is a within-subject realization of the balanced placebo design using autonomic measures of the response to alcohol and the conditioned compensatory response. Sixteen male social drinkers will have repeated pairings of alcohol with one distinctive room and placebo with a different room. Subsequent testing with placebo in the alcohol room is expected to replicate the conditioned compensatory response found in pilot data, and testing with alcohol in the placebo room is expected to show loss of tolerance. The second experiment compares the magnitude of the conditioned compensatory response in nonalcoholic social drinkers with and without familial alcoholism and scoring high and low on a personality risk factor for alcoholism. Subjects at risk for alcoholism are expected to show larger conditioned compensatory responses to alcohol-related cues (e.g., placebo administered in a room previously paired with alcohol). The research has important implications for the etiology of alcohol dependency, selection of a at risk individuals for primary prevention, and the prevention of relapse in alcoholics using cue exposure therapy.

National Institute of Health (NIH)
National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA)
Unknown (R23)
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Alcohol Psychosocial Research Review Committee (ALCP)
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Purdue University
Schools of Arts and Sciences
West Lafayette
United States
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Newlin, D B; Thomson, J B (1999) Chronic tolerance and sensitization to alcohol in sons of alcoholics: II. Replication and reanalysis. Exp Clin Psychopharmacol 7:234-43
Newlin, D B; Pretorius, M B (1991) Prior exposures to the laboratory enhance the effect of alcohol. J Stud Alcohol 52:470-3
Newlin, D B; Thomson, J B (1991) Chronic tolerance and sensitization to alcohol in sons of alcoholics. Alcohol Clin Exp Res 15:399-405
Newlin, D B; Pretorius, M B (1991) Nonassociative mechanisms in preferences for alcoholic flavors: differences between sons of alcoholics and sons of nonalcoholics. Addict Behav 16:481-7
Newlin, D B; Thomson, J B (1990) Alcohol challenge with sons of alcoholics: a critical review and analysis. Psychol Bull 108:383-402
Newlin, D B; Pretorius, M B (1990) Sons of alcoholics report greater hangover symptoms than sons of nonalcoholics: a pilot study. Alcohol Clin Exp Res 14:713-6
Newlin, D B; Byrne, E A; Porges, S W (1990) Vagal mediation of the effect of alcohol on heart rate. Alcohol Clin Exp Res 14:421-4
Newlin, D B (1989) Placebo responding in the same direction as alcohol in women. Alcohol Clin Exp Res 13:36-9
Thomson, J B; Newlin, D B (1988) Effects of alcohol conditioning and expectancy on a visuo-motor integration task. Addict Behav 13:73-7
Newlin, D B (1987) Alcohol expectancy and conditioning in sons of alcoholics. Adv Alcohol Subst Abuse 6:33-57

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