Constraint, Alcoholism, and Electrodermal Response in Aversive Classical Conditioning and Mismatch Novelty Paradigms

Finn, Peter R.; Justus, Alicia N.; Mazas, Carlos; Rorick, Linda; Steinmetz, Joseph E.
April 2001
Integrative Physiological & Behavioral Science;Apr-Jun2001, Vol. 36 Issue 2, p154
Academic Journal
This study investigated whether low levels of the personality trait of constraint and early-onset alcoholism would be associated with deficits in aversive conditioning and smaller responses to novelty in a stimulus mismatch protocol. Personality traits (constraint and socialization) and skin conductance responses (SCRs) during conditioning and novelty paradigms were assessed in alcoholics (n=41) and non-alcoholics (n = 32). The conditioning protocol involved measuring SCRs after conditioned stimuli (CS+: tones) paired with shock, CS- tones unpaired with shock, and CS+ probes unpaired with shock. The mismatch protocol involved measuring SCRs to auditory stimuli consisting of a series of 5 pure tones of the same pitch followed a shorter white noise stimulus (the novel stimulus). Contrary to the hypothesis, alcoholics did not differ from non-alcoholics in SCRs to CS+ probes or on the mismatch measure (SCR novel tone--SCR to 5 th tone). Higher levels of constraint and self-reports of fear during conditioning were associated with smaller responses to both the CS+ probes and the CS- tones as well as the mismatch measure within non-alcoholics, but not within alcoholics. In alcoholics, low constraint was associated with greater habituation to CS+ probes, and poor differential conditioning on measures of change across trials in SCR to CS+ probes and CS-stimuli. The results suggest that different processes influence levels of constraint in non-alcoholics and alcoholics. The data indicate that low constraint in non-alcoholics is associated with allocating fewer processing resources to potentially significant stimuli, rather than being associated with a specific deficit in aversive conditioning per se. Key words--Personality, alcoholism, classical conditioning, novelty.


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