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Similarities in the Disturbances in Cortical Information Processing in Alcoholism and Aging: A Pilot Evoked Potential Study

  • Nashaat N. Boutros (a1) (a2), M. Carrington Reid (a1) (a2), Ismene Petrakis (a1) (a2), Duane Campbell (a1) (a2), Michael Torello (a3) and John Krystal (a1) (a2)...

Abstract

Objective: To examine the hypothesis that chronic alcohol use causes accelerated aging of the brain. Methods: The auditory evoked potentials (EPs) were compared in three groups of 10 subjects each: (a) middle-aged individuals meeting DSM-IV criteria for alcohol dependence, (b) age- and gender-matched group of healthy individuals, and (c) an older (>65 years) group of gender-matched healthy individuals. Multiple levels of cortical information processing were examined using EPs. Early stages of information processing, related to sensory gating and stimulus classification (P50, N100/P200), were studied using a paired-click paradigm. Later stages of information processing associated with memory upgrading and identification of novel stimuli (P300) were studied using an oddball paradigm. Results: The amplitude and latency of the P300 of the alcoholic patients and the older healthy subjects differed significantly from those of the younger healthy group. Both groups showed changes that have been reported in association with aging. A tendency towards decreased sensory gating in later stages of information processing was noted in the aged healthy individuals. Conclusions: These data suggest that alcohol dependence may accelerate the aging process. The tendency towards a sensory gating deficit during the attentive phase of information processing in older healthy subjects requires further investigation because it may be a marker for an increased proneness to developing psychotic symptoms in that group.

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