A preliminary study of acute responses to clamped alcohol concentration and family history of alcoholism

Vijay A. Ramchandani, Sean O'Connor, Tanya Blekher, David Kareken, Sandra Morzorati, John Nurnberger, Ting Kai Li

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

52 Scopus citations


Background: The clamping method of alcohol administration was combined with a battery of dependent measures of frontal lobe brain function, and a novel index of acute adaptation, in a preliminary study in order to explore the paradigm's sensitivity to a familial history of alcoholism (FHA). Methods: Ten family history-positive (FHP) and 10 family history-negative (FHN) adult social drinkers of both genders underwent alcohol clamping. Twenty minutes after the start of an intravenous infusion of alcohol, the breath alcohol concentration was clamped at a target of 60 ± 5 mg/dl for 150 min. Initial and adaptive responses to alcohol were assessed using scalar indices of change. One index assessed initial improvements or impairments in brain function after alcohol. The other index assessed acute adaptation (tolerance or sensitization) to alcohol while the brain's exposure to alcohol was held constant. The battery of dependent measures included subjective perceptions, neuropsychological tests, saccadic eye- movement tasks, and event-related potential (ERP) tasks. Effect sizes for FHA were estimated for 10 dependent variables that showed adequate baseline test-retest reliability (r >0.6). Results: FHP subjects showed less intense initial responses to alcohol in subjective perceptions, but greater changes in the latency of volitional saccades and ERP P3 components than did the FHN controls. FHP subjects generally showed greater acute tolerance to alcohol than did controls, who showed more instances of acute sensitization at this moderate breath alcohol concentration. Effect sizes for FHA exceeded 0.4 in more than half of the indices. Conclusions: The BrAC clamping paradigm assesses initial and adaptive responses of a battery of behavioral and electrophysiological measures of frontal lobe function to ethanol that appear both reliable and sensitive to FHA.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Number of pages1
JournalAlcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research
Issue number8
StatePublished - Jan 1 1999


  • Acute adaptation
  • Breath alcohol clamping
  • Family history of alcoholism
  • Sensitization
  • Tolerance

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine (miscellaneous)
  • Toxicology

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