U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs


Date of this Version


Document Type



Psychiatry Research 105 (2001) 67-78


Native Americans have some of the highest rates of alcohol abuse and dependence, yet risk factors for problem drinking remain relatively unknown. The amplitude of the P3 component of the event-related potential (ERP) has been suggested to be an index of ‘vulnerability to alcoholism’, especially when it is elicited by visual tasks in younger individuals. Visual P3 tasks, however, have not been previously investigated in Native American youth. One hundred and four Mission Indian youth between the ages of 7 and 13 years participated in the study. ERPs were collected using two visual target paradigms: a facial discrimination and an estimation of line orientation task. Analyses of covariance revealed that participants with a first degree family history of alcoholism had lower P3 component amplitudes in frontal leads to the facial discrimination task. Lower P3 amplitudes, in posterior areas, were found in the line discrimination task in children who scored above the 75th percentile in delinquent behaviors on the Achenbach Child Behavior Checklist. These findings are consistent with investigations in non-Indian populations demonstrating that the late positive component of the event related potential is sensitive to both familial history of alcohol dependence as well as personal history of externalizing behaviors.