A Preliminary Investigation of Salivary α-Amylase as a Novel Biomarker of Subjective Response to Alcohol: A Brief Report

Scott E. King, Jack T. Waddell, William R. Corbin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


Alcohol misuse represents a universal public health concern that spans multiple demographics. As such, understanding shared, biological indicators of alcohol-related risk is vital to implementing targeted prevention and intervention efforts. Self-report measures of subjective response to alcohol (SR) capture both psychological and pharmacological effects of alcohol and robustly predict patterns of alcohol use, negative consequences, and the development of alcohol use disorders. Importantly, several biological markers of alcohol’s sedating effects, including cortisol, have been identified and complement subjective response assessments. However, biological markers of alcohol’s stimulating effects are less understood. Studies have implicated alcohol-induced changes in heart rate as a viable marker, but heart rate measurements are susceptible to measurement error. Salivary α-amylase, a reliable indicator of sympathetic nervous system activation, represents a promising alternative biomarker of alcohol-induced stimulation. Using data from a large, placebo-controlled alcohol administration study (N = 448), the present study examined the extent to which α-amylase is a viable marker of alcohol-induced stimulation. To test this, a measurement model was estimated in which baseline and ascending limb subjective stimulation latent variables were created using two validated measures of subjective response. Ascending self-reports of stimulation and levels of α-amylase were then regressed onto beverage conditions and allowed to correlate with each other. Findings indicated that α-amylase is sensitive to acute alcohol consumption and is positively, but not statistically reliably, related to the ascending limb stimulant SR. Future studies should consider including salivary α-amylase as a noninvasive physiological indicator of alcohol’s stimulating effects.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)888-894
Number of pages7
JournalExperimental and clinical psychopharmacology
Issue number5
StatePublished - Feb 9 2023


  • alcohol
  • amylase
  • biomarker
  • subjective response
  • young adults

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pharmacology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health
  • Pharmacology (medical)


Dive into the research topics of 'A Preliminary Investigation of Salivary α-Amylase as a Novel Biomarker of Subjective Response to Alcohol: A Brief Report'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this