The primary purposes of this FIRST application are: (a) to test mechanisms of alcohol's effects on social anxiety in men and women within the framework of the appraisal-disruption model, and (b) to determine whether there is an association among risk for alcoholism, sensitivity to the disruption of cognitive appraisal processes, and stress response dampening effects of alcohol. Subjects at high and low risk for alcoholism, based on family history of the disorder, will consume an alcoholic (.8 g/kg alcohol men;.7 g/kg women) or a placebo beverage, either before or after receiving stressful information. Subjects will be tested for cognitive deficits in both attentive (limited-capacity) and automatic processing. Stress response dampening (SRD) will be assessed using a multidimensional approach comprising subjective, psychophysiological, and behavior- expressive response systems. It is predicted that SRD effects of alcohol will be strongest when intoxication precedes the presentation of stressful information. Anxiolytic effects are predicted to correlate positively with disruption of cognitive appraisal processes. Specifically, alcohol is expected to disrupt the appraisal of new information by constraining the spread of activation to associated information in long-term memory. Moreover, subjects with a parental history of alcoholism are predicted to have greater cognitive impairment and stronger stress response dampening than subjects without such a family history. Investigation of both automatic and attentive cognitive processes will further understanding of the effects of alcohol on cognition per se. Identifying the relationship between disruption of cognitive processing and stress response dampening will elucidate the mechanisms contributing to the reinforcing effects of alcohol, and will help to integrate a large and inconsistent literature on alcohol-stress interactions. This research will advance knowledge of individual differences in the stress response dampening effects of alcohol, and will significantly increase understanding of the determinants of drinking patterns and alcohol abuse.

National Institute of Health (NIH)
National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA)
First Independent Research Support & Transition (FIRST) Awards (R29)
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Clinical and Treatment Subcommittee (ALCP)
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University of Pittsburgh
Schools of Arts and Sciences
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