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. 2018 Jul 17;13(7):e0200424.
doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0200424. eCollection 2018.

Cardiac Vagal Dysfunction Moderates Patterns of Craving Across the Day in Moderate to Heavy Consumers of Alcohol

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Cardiac Vagal Dysfunction Moderates Patterns of Craving Across the Day in Moderate to Heavy Consumers of Alcohol

Rhiannon E Mayhugh et al. PLoS One. .
Free PMC article

Abstract

Background: Alcohol craving, a known correlate of vulnerability to Alcohol Use Disorder (AUD), has been found to be inversely related to cardiac vagal tone (CVT). Here we examine how resting CVT, CVT reactivity to a postural challenge, and their interaction influence craving during imposed alcohol abstinence and their usual drinking among moderate to heavy drinkers.

Methods: Participants were recruited from the local community (final n = 29) and assessed for CVT functioning via respiratory sinus arrhythmia (RSA) at rest (RSA-rest) and during a postural challenge (RSA-react). Craving intensity was assessed throughout the day during 3-day periods of imposed alcohol abstinence (abstained days) and drinking as usual (normal days) via Ecological Momentary Assessment (EMA). Multilevel statistical modeling assessed relationships between patterns of CVT and diurnal craving. The primary hypothesis of interest was that the interaction of RSA-rest with RSA-react would be significantly associated with increased craving across the day.

Results: Overall, craving increased throughout the day and significantly decreased after drinking (p < 0.001). There was a significant interaction between RSA-rest and RSA-react with plots revealing that this effect was driven by an aberrant craving pattern among participants with higher RSA-rest and a sluggish vagal brake in response to a postural shift-atypical RSA-react.

Conclusion: Although additional research is needed to corroborate these findings, our results suggest that moderate-heavy drinkers characterized by higher RSA-rest and atypical RSA-react exhibit aberrant patterns of craving across the day that may represent a risk factor for AUD.

Conflict of interest statement

The authors have declared that no competing interests exist.

Figures

Fig 1
Fig 1. Estimated overall average effect across the 3-days of abstinence on craving responses by time of day and the effect of taking of drink on craving during the 3-day normal period.
Fig 2
Fig 2. Plot of model-based estimates of craving across the 3-days of abstinence and before and after taking a drink during the 3-day normal period for four hypothetical cases.
1) RSA-rest set at 1 SD above the mean and residualized RSA-react set at 1 SD below than mean (higher RSA-rest/typical residualized RSA-react; Panel A); 2) RSA-rest set at 1 SD above the mean and residualized RSA-react set at 1 SD above than mean (higher RSA-rest/atypical residualized RSA-react; Panel B); 3) RSA-rest set at 1 SD below the mean and residualized RSA-react set at 1 SD above the mean (lower RSA-rest/typical residualized RSA-react, Panel C); and 4) RSA-rest set at 1 SD below the mean and residualized RSA-react set at 1 SD below than mean (lower RSA-rest/atypical residualized RSA-react; Panel D).

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