Project Details


Automatic and implicit memory processes, and difficulties in the regulation of negative affect, are thought to be importantly involved in the development and maintenance of alcohol and other drug use disorders (Koob &Le Moal;1997;O'Brien et al., 1992;Robinson &Berridge, 1993;Tiffany, 1990). Studies comparing persons with a multigenerational family history of alcohol use disorders (FHP) to those with no such family history (FHN) suggest that there are differences in memory functioning and affective regulation, although these differences have yet to be linked to specific mechanisms that underlie variance in addiction liability. Understanding has been limited in preclinical human populations because research has seldom included measures of both psychophysiological arousal and memory disruption in the same paradigm, and has not examined the extent to which alcohol selectively disrupts explicit versus implicit memory processing of emotionally valenced stimuli that are and are not distressing. The goal of this application is to better understand the influence of alcohol on implicit and explicit memory for, and psychophysiological reactivity to, neutral, positive, and emotionally distressing stimuli in FHP and FHN persons. A sequence of three experiments is proposed: Experiment 1 examines whether alcohol's dissociation of multiple forms of implicit and explicit memory processes differs in high versus low risk family history groups. Experiment 2 examines alcohol's selective effects on implicit and explicit memory for emotionally arousing versus neutral word stimuli, assesses psychophysiological reactivity during stimulus encoding, and tests differential influences on long term memory consolidation in FHP and FHN persons. Experiment 3 examines these questions using emotionally arousing picture stimuli that have been further characterized as having distinct positive versus negative affective valences. Data from Experiments 2 and 3 will further be used to explore whether heart rate variability measures of autonomic balance and adaptability can characterize alcohol effects on dynamic affective self-regulation processes in high and low risk persons. The proposed sequence of experiments builds systematically on our previous alcohol and memory research in a way that should yield further knowledge about alcohol effects on implicit and explicit, immediate and longer term memory processes, and how these covary with arousal responses to both verbal and picture stimuli that vary in emotional salience. The findings will be useful in examining the predictions of "stress response dampening" models of alcohol effects in high and Iow risk groups, and may ultimately help to refine, from a human behavioral perspective, addiction models that posit the operation of unintentional memory processes and difficulties in the regulation of negative affect in contributing to addiction vulnerability.
Effective start/end date7/1/046/30/10


  • National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism: $297,680.00
  • National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism: $282,313.00
  • National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism: $118,846.00
  • National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism: $280,404.00
  • National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism: $279,969.00
  • National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism: $296,304.00


  • Psychiatry and Mental health
  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Surgery


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