To determine if the inability to take advantage
of the predictability of an aversive stimulus to diminish
its psychological impact reflects a deficit in inhibitory
control related to the development of substance dependence,
we recorded skin conductance responses (SCRs), heart rate
(HR), and anticipatory electrodermal nonspecific fluctuations
(NSFs) from 175 16–18-year-old boys when a white
noise blast was either unpredictable or temporally predictable.
Compared with boys who had moderately reduced or augmented
SCRs to predictable blasts (moderate and poor modulators,
respectively), boys whose SCRs were greatly reduced (good
modulators) had fewer symptoms of alcohol and nicotine
dependence and more anticipatory NSFs. HR appeared to index
an active coping response for good and moderate modulators.
The autonomic response pattern evident for good modulators
may index an inhibitory control mechanism protecting them
from developing substance dependence.