Gender differences in reactivity to alcohol cues in binge drinkers: a preliminary assessment of event-related potentials


Binge drinking is associated with functional brain abnormalities similar to those observed in alcoholics and can be viewed as a first step towards alcohol dependence. Adult men are twice as likely as women to develop alcoholism. This study investigates (1) the presence of alcohol cue reactivity in bingers, a feature that has been proposed to underlie the emergence of alcohol dependence; and (2) a possible higher alcohol cue reactivity in men binge drinkers which could explain their higher risk for alcohol use disorders in adulthood.The P3 component of the event-related potentials (ERPs) was recorded during a visual oddball task in which controls (n=27: 10 men and 17 women) and binge drinkers (n=29: 15 men and 14 women) had to detect infrequent deviant stimuli (related to alcohol or not) among frequent neutral stimuli. Results showed that binge drinkers, compared to light drinkers, displayed increased P3 reactivity to alcohol related cues with a greater effect among men. Our results suggest the phenomenon of alcohol cue reactivity to be a possible avenue by which a higher risk population, binge drinkers, and men in particular, are prone to develop problematic alcohol use.

Keywords: Alcoholism; Binge drinking; Cue reactivity; Event-related potentials; Gender; P3.

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