Is the strength of implicit alcohol associations correlated with alcohol-induced heart-rate acceleration?

E. van den Wildenberg*, M.H. Beckers, F. Van Lambaart, P.J. Conrod, R.W.H.J. Wiers

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Heart rate (HR) acceleration during the ascending limb of the blood alcohol curve has proven to be a reliable measure of the sensitivity to the activating effects of alcohol. In this study, we investigated the correlation between an ethanol-induced cardiac change and the strength of implicit alcohol-related arousal and approach associations and attentional bias for alcohol-related stimuli in heavy drinkers. These 3 types of implicit alcohol-related cognitions have been proposed to reflect the strength of incentive sensitization that is experienced after repeated alcohol use. Forty-eight heavy drinking men performed a modified version of the Implicit Association Test (IAT) to measure their implicit alcohol arousal and approach-avoidance associations. A modified version of the emotional Stroop was used to measure attentional bias for alcohol-related stimuli (blocked and unblocked). Next, a high dose of alcohol (1.0 mL/kg body weight 95% USP alcohol) was administered in a short period of time. Resting baseline HR, blood alcohol concentrations, mood, and craving for alcohol were assessed before alcohol administration and for 2 hours post-alcohol consumption. Contrary to our hypothesis, a negative association was found between implicit arousal associations and alcohol-induced HR change. This indicates that strong arousal associations were correlated with a decrease in alcohol-induced HR. Approach associations and attentional bias were not correlated with alcohol-induced HR change, but both were correlated positively with each other. Alcohol-arousal associations and other implicit cognitions (attentional bias, approach associations) are not positively related to individual differences in the sensitivity to alcohol's activating effects, at least not in the present sample consisting primarily of family history-negative heavy drinkers.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1336-1348
JournalAlcoholism-Clinical and Experimental Research
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2006

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