Effects of Sensory Input and Alcohol Administration on Visual Evoked Potentials in Normal Subjects and Alcoholics

  • M. S. Buchsbaum
  • A. M. Ludwig
Part of the Advances in Experimental Medicine and Biology book series (AEMB, volume 126)


Ethanol is generally classed as a sedative drug. Following even low doses, diminished sensory sensitivity to taste, smell, and painful stimuli may occur. We have hypothesized that alcoholics may lack some normal perceptual/neurophysiological inhibitory mechanisms in their CNS which renders them especially vulnerable to the effects of sensory over-stimulation (Ludwig et al. 1977). Drinking ethanol by alcoholics may then represent an adaptive attempt to diminish sensory input either by inhibiting sensory input pathways or by releasing central sensory inhibitory pathways normally less active. Based on this hypothesis, we might expect alcoholics to have greater sensory responsiveness than matched non-alcoholic normal controls while sober, especially under conditions of intense or prolonged sensory stimulation. Ethanol might have a differential effect on sensory responsiveness in alcoholics and normal controls, with an especially effective pharmacological ‘dampening’ effect of the drug contributing to its reinforcing qualities in alcoholics.


Stimulus Intensity Sensory Input Sensory Level Sensory Stimulation Evoke Potential 
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Copyright information

© Plenum Press, New York 1980

Authors and Affiliations

  • M. S. Buchsbaum
    • 1
  • A. M. Ludwig
    • 2
  1. 1.Biological Psychiatry BranchNIMHBethesdaUSA
  2. 2.Dept. of PsychiatryUniv. of KentuckyLexingtonUSA

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