A Longitudinal Twin Study of Effects of Adolescent Alcohol Abuse on the Neurophysiology of Attention and Orienting

Sini M. Koskinen, Jyrki Ahveninen, Teija Kujala, Jaakko Kaprio, Brian F. O'donnell, Daria Osipova, Richard J. Viken, Risto Näätänen, Richard J. Rose

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

22 Scopus citations


Background: Long-term functional brain effects of adolescent alcohol abuse remain uncertain, partially because of difficulties in distinguishing inherited deficits from neuronal effects of ethanol and by confounds associated with alcohol abuse, especially nicotine exposure. We conducted a longitudinal twin study to determine neurocognitive effects of adolescent alcohol abuse, as measured with the auditory event-related potential (ERP) component P3, a putative marker of genetic vulnerability to alcoholism. Methods: Twin pairs (N=177; 150 selected for intrapair concordance/discordance for alcohol-related problems at age 181/2) were recruited from ongoing studies of twins born 1975-1979 in Finland. Alcohol and tobacco use were assessed with questionnaires at ages 16, 17, 181/2, and ∼25, and by a structured psychiatric interview concurrent with the ERP testing at mean age 25.8. During ERP recordings, subjects were instructed to detect target tones within a train of frequent "standards" and to ignore occasional "novel" sounds. To distinguish familial factors from ethanol effects, ERP and self-reported alcohol use measures were incorporated into hierarchical multiple regression (HMR) analysis, and intrapair differences in ERP were associated with intra-pair differences in alcohol variables. Results: Novel-sound P3 amplitude correlated negatively with self-reported alcohol use in both between- and within-family analyses. No similar effect was observed for target-tone P3. HMR results suggest that twins' similarity for novel-sound P3 amplitude is modulated by their alcohol use, and this effect of alcohol use is influenced by genetic factors. Conclusions: Our results, from a large sample of twins selected from a population-based registry for pairwise concordance/discordance for alcohol problems at 181/2, demonstrate that adolescent alcohol abuse is associated with subtle neurophysiological changes in attention and orienting. The changes are reflected in decreased novel-sound P3 amplitude and may be modified by genetic factors.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1339-1350
Number of pages12
JournalAlcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research
Issue number7
StatePublished - Jul 2011


  • Adolescents
  • Alcohol Abuse
  • Event-Related Potentials
  • P3
  • Twin Study

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine (miscellaneous)
  • Toxicology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health

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