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P50 sensory gating and smoking in the general population


Wienker,  T.
Clinical Genetics (Thomas F. Wienker), Dept. of Human Molecular Genetics (Head: Hans-Hilger Ropers), Max Planck Institute for Molecular Genetics, Max Planck Society;

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Brinkmeyer, J., Mobascher, A., Musso, F., Schmitz, M., Wagner, M., Frommann, I., et al. (2011). P50 sensory gating and smoking in the general population. Addict Biol, 16(3), 485-98. Retrieved from

P50 gating is a major functional biomarker in research on schizophrenia and other psychiatric conditions with high smoking prevalence. It is used as endophenotype for studying nicotinic systems genetics and as surrogate endpoint measure for drug development of nicotinic agonists. Surprisingly, little is known about P50 gating in the general population and the relationship to smoking-related characteristics. In this multicenter study at six academic institutions throughout Germany, n=907 never-smokers (NS<20 cigarettes/lifetime), n=463 light smokers (LS) with Fagerstrom Test for Nicotine Dependence (FTND)>/=4 and n=353 heavy smokers (HS, FTND<4) were randomly selected from the general population. As part of a standardized protocol for investigating the genetics of nicotine dependence (ND), an auditory P50 paradigm was applied. The main outcome measure was P50-amplitude difference followed by time-frequency analyses and functional imaging (sLORETA). Reduced P50 gating was found in HS compared to NS with LS taking an intermediate position-correlating with the degree of ND. sLORETA and time-frequency analyses indicate that high-frequency oscillations in frontal brain regions are particularly affected. With growing age, P50 gating increased in (heavy) smokers. This is the first large-scale study (normative sample data) on P50 sensory gating and smoking in the general population. Diminished gating of P50 and associated high-frequency oscillations in the frontal brain region are indications of a deficient inhibitory cortical function in nicotine-dependent smokers. The suitability and application of sensory P50 gating as functional biomarker with regard to genetic and pharmacological studies is discussed.