Using subjects with panic disorder, we investigated the effect of alcohol on expressive-emotional facial reactions to a well-known laboratory panic provocation procedure (inhalation of 35% carbon dioxide). Subjects consuming alcohol (vs. a placebo) displayed lower levels of emotional masking and fear/distress facial responses; however, differences were significant only for emotional masking. A composite variable combining the masking and fear/distress scores was also significantly lower in the group consuming alcohol. To the extent that masking behavior is a valid proxy for fear/distress responding, then the latter finding supports the conclusion that alcohol reduced negative affectivity associated with the inhalation. However, we also note the possibility that alcohol reduced masking directly without affecting fear/distress. We make parallel recommendations for future research that treats masking behavior as a nuisance variable on the one hand, or a dependent variable of potential importance on the other. We conclude that expressive-behavioral measures appear to he both feasible and potentially informative in alcohol research.
Bibliographical noteFunding Information:
This research was supported, in part. by the following grants to the first author: NIAAA grant R-29 AA09871: Graduate School of the University of Minnesota grant 1.5228; and Minnesota Medical Foundation grant MRF-72-92. Support for this research was also received from the University of Minnesota’s General Clinical Research Center under grant MOl-RR00400 from the National Institutes of Health. Requests for reprints should be sent to Matt G. Kushner, PhD. University of Minnesota. Department of Psychiatry, Mayo Building, Box 393,420 Delaware St. S.E.. Minneapolis, MN 55455.