Examining the associations between respiratory sinus arrhythmia in the lab and craving and drinking alcohol in daily life
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Alcohol use and abuse is highly prevalent and is related to several serious negative outcomes. Craving, a criterion for alcohol use disorder, is defined as a preoccupation and strong desire to consume alcohol. Craving alcohol can result in an initiation to drink and can lead to a dependency that can be long lasting, which makes it difficult to find the motivation to resist urges to drink. Craving is strongly associated with subsequent use; however, this association is influenced by a number of variables, such as one's ability to self-regulate. Respiratory sinus arrhythmia, an index of parasympathetic outflow to the heart, has been shown to reflect regulatory capacity. In the current study, we collected resting RSA in the lab and self-reported levels of craving and drinking in daily life using ecological momentary assessment. We hypothesized that craving in the moment would be significantly associated with drinking in the moment. We also hypothesized that low resting RSA would result in a higher likelihood of drinking and RSA would moderate the association between craving and drinking in daily life. Twenty-nine participants, who regularly drank alcohol, completed at least seven days of ecological momentary assessment. Results from multilevel analyses provide further support for the association between craving and drinking in daily life; however, RSA was not significantly related to drinking and did not significantly moderate the craving-use association. This is the first study to examine the role of resting RSA as it relates to drinking in daily life.