Human Laboratory Paradigms in Alcohol Research
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BACKGROUND: Human laboratory studies have a long and rich history in the field of alcoholism. Human laboratory studies have allowed for advances in alcohol research in a variety of ways, including elucidating neurobehavioral mechanisms of risk, identifying phenotypically distinct subtypes of alcohol users, investigating the candidate genes underlying experimental phenotypes for alcoholism, and testing mechanisms of action of alcoholism pharmacotherapies on clinically relevant translational phenotypes, such as persons exhibiting positive-like alcohol effects or alcohol craving. Importantly, the field of human laboratory studies in addiction has progressed rapidly over the past decade and has built upon earlier findings of alcohol's neuropharmacological effects to advancing translational research on alcoholism etiology and treatment. METHODS AND RESULTS: To that end, the new generation of human laboratory studies has focused on applying new methodologies, further refining alcoholism phenotypes, and translating these findings to studies of alcoholism genetics, medication development, and pharmacogenetics. The combination of experimental laboratory approaches with the recent developments in neuroscience and pharmacology has been particularly fruitful in furthering our understanding of the impact of individual differences in alcoholism risk and in treatment response. CONCLUSIONS: This review of the literature focuses on human laboratory studies of subjective intoxication, alcohol craving, anxiety, and behavioral economics. Each section discusses opportunities for phenotype refinement under laboratory conditions, as well as its application to translational science of alcoholism. A summary and recommendations for future research are also provided.
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