Startle Response Up in Early-Onset Alcohol Dependence

Increased startle reactivity may be trait marker for early-onset alcohol dependency

MONDAY, Feb. 6 (HealthDay News) -- Early-onset alcohol-dependent patients have increased acoustic startle responses compared with late-onset alcohol-dependent patients or healthy controls, according to a study published online Jan. 24 in Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research.

Arnt F.A. Schellekens, M.D., of the Nijmegen Medical Centre in the Netherlands, and associates assessed acoustic startle response by measuring reflex eye blink amplitudes and prepulse inhibition (PPI) levels in 83 detoxified men with early- and late-onset alcohol dependency and 86 matched healthy controls. They investigated whether the acoustic startle response was different in early- and late-onset alcohol-dependent patients, and whether these differences were due to the duration of alcohol dependence or number of prior detoxifications.

The researchers found significantly higher acoustic startle amplitudes in early-onset alcohol-dependent patients compared to late-onset alcohol-dependent patients or healthy controls. The data showed no association between the number of previous alcohol withdrawals and startle response. No differences were seen between the groups for PPI.

"Increased acoustic startle response in detoxified early-onset alcohol-dependent patients may reflect a trait marker specifically involved in early-onset alcohol dependence. The findings of the current study do not support the hypothesis that the increased startle response is a residual state marker," the authors write.

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