Rationale: Identification of malleable neurocognitive predictors of relapse among alcohol-dependent individuals is important for the optimization of health care delivery and clinical services. Objectives: Given that alcohol cue-reactivity can predict relapse, we evaluated cue-elicited high-frequency heart rate variability (HFHRV) and alcohol attentional bias (AB) as potential relapse risk indices. Method: Alcohol-dependent patients in long-term residential treatment who had participated in mindfulness-oriented therapy or an addiction support group completed a spatial cueing task as a measure of alcohol AB and an affect-modulated alcohol cue-reactivity protocol while HFHRV was assessed. Results: Post-treatment HFHRV cue-reactivity and alcohol AB significantly predicted the occurrence and timing of relapse by 6-month follow-up, independent of treatment condition and after controlling for alcohol dependence severity. Alcohol-dependent patients who relapsed exhibited a significantly greater HFHRV reactivity to stress-primed alcohol cues than patients who did not relapse. Conclusions: Cue-elicited HFHRV and alcohol AB can presage relapse and may therefore hold promise as prognostic indicators in clinical settings.

Alcohol dependence, Attentional bias, Cue-reactivity, Heart rate variability, Relapse
dx.doi.org/10.1007/s00213-011-2618-4, hdl.handle.net/1765/64624
Department of Psychology

Garland, E.L, Franken, I.H.A, & Howard, M.O. (2012). Cue-elicited heart rate variability and attentional bias predict alcohol relapse following treatment. Psychopharmacology, 222(1), 17–26. doi:10.1007/s00213-011-2618-4