Frontal EEG response to threat, aggressive traits and a family history of alcoholism: a preliminary study

J Stud Alcohol. 2000 Jan;61(1):38-45. doi: 10.15288/jsa.2000.61.38.


Objective: This study investigated the association between frontal EEG response to threat, a family history of alcoholism (positive history = FHP, negative = FHN), aggressive - antisocial traits and negative affect.

Method: EEG in 17 FHP men and 17 FHN men was recorded while resting and while awaiting an electric shock.

Results: Compared with FHNs, FHPs showed significantly greater threat-induced decreases in frontal alpha, but no change in frontal beta power. FHNs had significant threat-induced increases in frontal beta power. A measure of aggressive traits, the Buss-Durkee Hostility Assault scale, was also significantly associated with greater threat-induced decreases in frontal alpha power and low reactivity to threat on frontal beta power.

Conclusions: The data suggest that familial risk for alcoholism and aggressive traits may be associated with a paradoxical pattern of both increased reactivity (more alpha suppression) and decreased reactivity (no increase in beta power) to threat in frontal cortical regions. However, these results are preliminary and tentative due to limitations arising from the small sample size and the exploratory nature of this study.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aggression / psychology*
  • Alcoholism / genetics
  • Alcoholism / psychology*
  • Alpha Rhythm / psychology*
  • Beta Rhythm / psychology*
  • Electric Stimulation
  • Electroencephalography / psychology
  • Frontal Lobe* / physiology
  • Humans
  • Male