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Deficits of prefrontal cortex functioning and associated executive cognitive impairments are well-known correlates of chronic alcoholism and may reflect cumulative effects of high alcohol exposure. However, such associations may also reflect traits predating alcohol exposure which predispose to heavy drinking. In the present investigation, 60 university undergraduates aged 18-25 years were administered the Alcohol Use Disorders Identification Test (AUDIT), Frontal Systems Behavior Scale (FrSBe), and Sensitivity to Punishment and Sensitivity to Reward Questionnaire (SPSRQ). All participants reported they were at least occasional drinkers who rarely or never used illicit drugs and had no reported history of head injury or neurological problems. All were sober at time of testing. AUDIT total scores were positively correlated with both FrSBe Disinhibition scores and SPSRQ Reward Sensitivity scores. The latter were negatively correlated with age at onset of regular alcohol use. High risk drinkers (as defined by AUDIT) had higher FrSBe Disinhibition and SPSRQ Reward Sensitivity scores compared to low risk drinkers. Findings indicate that even in a highly selected subset of young adults-undergraduates attending a prestigious private university-associations may be present between indices of prefrontal cortex dysfunction and alcohol consumption, perhaps reflecting traits that predispose to heavy drinking.
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