Sex Differences in Risk for Alcohol Abuse

  • End date
    Dec 31, 2023
  • participants needed
  • sponsor
    Jessica Weafer
Updated on 4 April 2023
Accepts healthy volunteers


This study will determine the neural and hormonal mechanisms underlying sex differences in sensitivity to the disinhibiting effects of alcohol in heavy drinkers.


Alcohol abuse inflicts enormous physical, emotional, and financial burdens on the individual and society at large. Knowing who is at risk for alcohol abuse, and why, is crucial for the development of effective prevention and treatment strategies. Alcohol abuse has been traditionally considered a male-oriented problem and as a consequence research on risk factors specific to women has been minimal. However, the sex gap in substance abuse is closing rapidly, and findings from both animal and human studies suggest that females are actually more vulnerable to drug use than males. As such, there is an urgent need to identify sex differences in risk factors for alcohol abuse in order to develop sex-specific prevention and treatment efforts. One clear candidate risk factor is poor inhibitory control, both in terms of baseline levels of inhibition and sensitivity to the disinhibiting effects of alcohol. Recent studies suggest that sex hormones affect inhibitory control in drug-free individuals, potentially contributing to sex differences in baseline levels of inhibition. However, the degree to which fluctuations in sex hormones influence sex differences in inhibition-related brain function in sober and intoxicated individuals is not known. The proposed project will determine the neural and hormonal mechanisms underlying sex differences in sensitivity to the disinhibiting effects of alcohol in heavy drinkers.

The overall objective of the research is to identify hormonal determinants of alcohol effects on brain activation during response inhibition (BARI) in young adult female and male drinkers. BARI will be assessed using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) during performance of the stop signal task. This task reliably activates right-lateralized prefrontal regions implicated in inhibitory control. This study will assess BARI during IV alcohol (60mg%) and saline infusion in women during the early follicular and mid-luteal phases and in men at matched intervals.

Condition Alcohol Abuse
Treatment Alcohol
Clinical Study IdentifierNCT04543942
SponsorJessica Weafer
Last Modified on4 April 2023


Yes No Not Sure

Inclusion Criteria

heavy drinking
Alcohol Use Disorder Identification Test score above 7
BMI between 19 and 26
high school education
fluent in English
women must have regular menstrual cycles
not using hormonal contraceptives

Exclusion Criteria

drug use disorder (SCID, DSM-5), other than nicotine or caffeine
meets withdrawal criteria
history of physical or psychiatric disease
contraindication for fMRI
pregnant or breastfeeding
smoking more than 5 cigarettes per day
Clear my responses

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Additional screening procedures may be conducted by the study team before you can be confirmed eligible to participate.

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If you are confirmed eligible after full screening, you will be required to understand and sign the informed consent if you decide to enroll in the study. Once enrolled you may be asked to make scheduled visits over a period of time.

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Complete your scheduled study participation activities and then you are done. You may receive summary of study results if provided by the sponsor.

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