Effects of Ethanol: II. Behavioral Sensitivity and Acute Behavioral Tolerance

James R. Wilson, V. Gene Erwin, Gerald E. McClea, Robert Plomin, Ronald C. Johnson, Frank M. Ahem, Robert E. Cole

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

23 Scopus citations


Two doses of ethyl alcohol were administered to 48 young male subjects (24 brother‐pairs), and placebo doses were administered, to five brother‐pairs (controls). Dose 1 amount was calculated to result in a peak blood alcohol content (BAC) of 100 mg/100 ml; dose 2 was given when BAC had fallen to one‐half the peak BAC resulting from dose 1, in an attempt to raise BAC back to 100 mg/100 ml. Prior to alcohol dosage, baseHne measurements were made on a number of behavioral tests. Behavioral performances during metabolism of doses 1 and 2 were compared to baseline performance. Sensitivity to ethanol was indicated by performance decrements on nearly all. tests after ethanol dosing. Acute behavioral tolerance to ethanol (ABTE) was indicated for some tests by improved performance after dose 2 compared to performance at a time after dose 1 when BACs were about equivalent A preliminary search for possible genetic components of sensitivity and ABTE was undertaken by comparing the scores of the brothers. 1. Sensitivity to ethanol, measured via a mean performance decrement, was found for many of the tests employed in this study, with larger decrements seen on motor tasks. 2. Despite the overall picture of average performance decrements, there was striking individual variability in performance, and a few individuals performed better after ethanol dosage. 3. Mean scores revealed a consistent trend for improved performance during clearance of the second dose of ethanol. We have termed this phenomenon “acute behavioral tolerance to ethanol.” When the short individual tests were summed to form a “motor” test battery and a “written” test battery, ABTE was clearly a significant effect. 4. Even though tests of familiality (via resemblance of brothers) were not definitive, perhaps due to the small sample size, several promising leads for further research on familiality of responses to ethanol were revealed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)366-374
Number of pages9
JournalAlcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research
Issue number4
StatePublished - Jul 1984

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Medicine (miscellaneous)
  • Toxicology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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