The Effects of Family History, Sobriety Length, and Drinking History in Younger Alcoholics on P300 Auditory-Evoked Potentials

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Event-related potentials (ERPs) have been shown to be different between alcoholics and non-alcoholics. Of particular interest to investigators has been the P300 wave. Because it has been shown that alcohol-induced neural damage can alter P300 waves, particularly amplitude, we attempted to examine alcoholics who most likely suffered little damage because they drank heavily for relatively few years (mean = 6.9 years). The effects of long-term sobriety (mean = 5.0 years) were also investigated to determine if cognitive functioning, as measured by auditory-evoked P300 waves, varies with increased abstinence. Because family history for alcoholism has also been shown to influence P300 amplitude and latency, alcoholics and controls with and without family history were examined. The alcoholic group had significantly longer latencies in P300 measures in both the family history positive and negative groups; P300 amplitudes between alcoholics and non-alcoholics did not vary, regardless of family history. P300 waves were unaffected by sobriety length or drinking history. The results support the hypothesis that P300 differences can be seen between alcoholics and those at risk for alcoholism.



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