Several studies support an association between electroencephalogram (EEG) voltage and alcohol dependence. However, the distribution of EEG variants also appears to differ depending on an individual's ethnic heritage, suggesting significant genetic stratification of this EEG phenotype. The present study's aims were to investigate the incidence of EEG alpha variants and spectral power in the alpha frequency range in Mexican American young adults based on gender, and personal and family history of alcohol dependence. Clinical ratings (high-, medium-, and low alpha voltage variants) and spectral characteristics of the EEG in the alpha frequency range (7.5-12 Hz) were investigated in young adult (age 18-25 years) Mexican American men (n=98) and women (n=138) who were recruited from the community. Nineteen percent (n=45) of the participants had a low-voltage alpha EEG variant, 18% had a high-voltage variant, and 63% had a medium-voltage variant. There were no significant differences in the distribution of the EEG variants based on family history of alcohol dependence. There was a significant relationship between gender and the three alpha variants (chi2=9.7; df=2; P<.008), and there were no male participants with alcohol dependence with high alpha variants (chi2=5.8; df=2; P<.056). Alcohol dependence, but not a family history of alcohol dependence, was associated with lower spectral power in the alpha frequency range in the right (F=4.4; df=1,96; P<.04) and left (F=5.3; df=1.96; P<.02) occipital areas in the men but not in the women. In conclusion, in this select population of Mexican American young adults, male gender and alcohol dependence are associated with an absence of high-voltage alpha variants and lower alpha power in the EEG. These data suggest that EEG low voltage, a highly heritable trait, may represent an important endophenotype in male Mexican Americans that may aid in linking brain function with genetic factors underlying alcohol dependence in this ethnic group.