Early signs of cardiovascular dysregulation in young adult binge drinkers

Psychophysiology. 2018 May;55(5):e13036. doi: 10.1111/psyp.13036. Epub 2017 Nov 29.


Binge drinking is widespread on American college campuses, but its effects on the cardiovascular system are poorly understood. This study sought evidence of preclinical cardiovascular changes in binge drinking young adults (n = 24) compared to nondrinking (n = 24) and social drinking (n = 23) peers during baseline, paced sighing (0.033 Hz), and paced breathing (0.1 Hz) tasks. Binge drinkers showed consistent but often statistically nonsignificant evidence of greater sympathetic activation and reduced baroreflex sensitivity. Interestingly, the structure of group-averaged baseline heart rate spectra was considerably different between groups in the low frequency range (0.05-0.15 Hz). In particular, the binge drinking group-averaged spectra showed several spectral peaks not evident in the other groups, possibly indicating two functionally distinct subranges (0.05-0.08 and 0.08-0.15 Hz) that reflect vascular tone baroreflex activity and heart rate baroreflex activity, respectively. Vascular tone baroreflex gain and power in two peaks in the 0.05-0.08 Hz range were associated with years of drinking in the binge drinking group. Vascular dysfunction may be an early indicator of drinking-related change in the cardiovascular system.

Keywords: alcohol; baroreflex; college; heart rate variability; vascular tone.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Baroreflex / physiology*
  • Binge Drinking / physiopathology*
  • Cardiovascular System / physiopathology*
  • Female
  • Heart Rate / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Sympathetic Nervous System / physiopathology*
  • Young Adult