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The blink of an eye may predict risk for alcohol problems

Date:
May 11, 2017
Source:
Research Society on Alcoholism
Summary:
The startle response, often recorded as an eye-blink reflex, is a defensive measure believed to reflect emotional processing. Patients with alcohol use disorders (AUDs) show abnormal startle-reflex responses to alcohol-related stimuli. This study examined startle-reflex responses to various visual stimuli among heavy drinkers, and assessed whether certain patterns predict the development of AUDs four years later.
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The startle response, often recorded as an eye-blink reflex, is a defensive measure believed to reflect emotional processing. Patients with alcohol use disorders (AUDs) show abnormal startle-reflex responses to alcohol-related stimuli. This study examined startle-reflex responses to various visual stimuli among heavy drinkers, and assessed whether certain patterns predict the development of AUDs four years later.

Researchers measured the startle-reflex responses of 287 men recruited from public health-care centers in Spain: 239 non-dependent, heavy-drinking men and 48 healthy men who comprised the control group. All participants were exposed to four types of pictures: alcohol-related, aversive, appetitive, and neutral. The participants were subsequently examined four years later to determine the predictive value of their startle response on drinking status.

The researchers found that a reduced startle-reflex response to alcohol-related and aversive pictures predicted AUD status in previously heavy drinkers. At follow-up, among the participants who were heavy drinkers initially, 46% met DSM-IV criteria for alcohol abuse or dependence. The authors suggested that a diminished startle-reflex response to alcohol-related and aversive stimuli may reflect a greater reward motivation among vulnerable drinkers and can serve as a clinical marker to predict the future development of AUDs.


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Materials provided by Research Society on Alcoholism. Note: Content may be edited for style and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Rosa Jurado-Barba, Almudena Duque, José Ramón López-Trabada, Isabel Martínez-Gras, María Salud García-Gutiérrez, Francisco Navarrete, Francisco López-Muñoz, Miguel Ángel Jiménez-Arriero, Cesar Ávila, Jorge Manzanares and Gabriel Rubio. The Modulation of the Startle Reflex as Predictor of Alcohol Use Disorders in a Sample of Heavy Drinkers: A 4-Year Follow-Up Study. Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research, May 2017 DOI: 10.1111/acer.13399

Cite This Page:

Research Society on Alcoholism. "The blink of an eye may predict risk for alcohol problems." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 11 May 2017. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2017/05/170511183737.htm>.
Research Society on Alcoholism. (2017, May 11). The blink of an eye may predict risk for alcohol problems. ScienceDaily. Retrieved May 29, 2017 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2017/05/170511183737.htm
Research Society on Alcoholism. "The blink of an eye may predict risk for alcohol problems." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2017/05/170511183737.htm (accessed May 29, 2017).

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