, 202:689 | Cite as

Offspring of parents with an alcohol use disorder prefer higher levels of brain alcohol exposure in experiments involving computer-assisted self-infusion of ethanol (CASE)

  • Ulrich S. Zimmermann
  • Inge Mick
  • Manfred Laucht
  • Victor Vitvitskiy
  • Martin H. Plawecki
  • Karl F. Mann
  • Sean O’Connor
Original Investigation



Acute alcohol effects may differ in social drinkers with a positive family history of alcohol use disorders (FHP) compared to FH negative (FHN) controls.


To investigate whether FHP subjects prefer higher levels of brain alcohol exposure than do FHN controls.

Materials and methods

Twenty-two young healthy nondependent social drinkers participated in two identical sessions of computer-assisted self-infusion of ethanol (CASE); the first for practicing the procedures, the second to test hypotheses. All 12 FHP (four women) and ten FHN (three women) participants received a priming exposure, increasing arterial blood alcohol concentration (aBAC) to 30 mg% at 10 min and decreasing it to 15 mg% at 25 min. A 2-h self-administration period followed, during which only the subjects could increase their aBAC by pressing a button connected to a computer controlling the infusion pump. Infusion rate profiles were calculated instantaneously to increase aBAC by precisely 7.5 mg% within 2.5 min after each button press, followed by a steady descent. Subjects were instructed to produce the same alcohol effects as they would do at a weekend party.


The mean and maximum aBAC during the self-administration period and the number of alcohol requests (NOAR) were significantly higher in the FHP vs. FHN participants.


This is the first laboratory experiment demonstrating higher alcohol self-administration in FHP compared to FHN subjects. A practice session increases the sensitivity of CASE experiments for detection of subtle differences in human alcohol self-administration.


Alcoholism Ethanol Self-administration Genetic risk Sensitivity Tolerance Freibier CASE 



We gratefully acknowledge help with conducting the experiments and with data management by Anna Kornadt, and help with recruitment of the participants by Sibylle Heinzel and Elisabeth Reichert.

This experiment fully complies with the current laws of the country in which it was performed; i.e., the Federal Republic of Germany.

The authors declare that they do not have a financial relationship with the organization that sponsored this research, i.e., the NIAAA, other than receiving grants. They further declare that there is no other conflict of interest regarding publication of these data.

The authors have full control of all primary data and agree to allow the journal to review these data, if requested.

This study was supported by Grant No. P60 AA007611-20 from the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism.

Furthermore, the ongoing longitudinal survey of the study sample was supported by grants from the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG), and from the German Bundesministerium für Bildung und Forschung (BMBF) supporting the research programs “Baden-Wuerttemberg Consortium for Addiction Research” and the German National Genome Research Network.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  • Ulrich S. Zimmermann
    • 1
    • 5
  • Inge Mick
    • 1
    • 5
  • Manfred Laucht
    • 2
  • Victor Vitvitskiy
    • 3
  • Martin H. Plawecki
    • 3
  • Karl F. Mann
    • 1
  • Sean O’Connor
    • 3
    • 4
  1. 1.Department of Addictive Behavior and Addiction MedicineCentral Institute of Mental HealthMannheimGermany
  2. 2.Department of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry and PsychotherapyCentral Institute of Mental HealthMannheimGermany
  3. 3.Department of PsychiatryIndiana University School of MedicineIndianapolisUSA
  4. 4.R.L. Roudebush VA Medical CenterIndianapolisUSA
  5. 5.Department of Psychiatry and Psychotherapy, University Hospital Carl Gustav CarusTechnische Universität DresdenDresdenGermany

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