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J Psychopharmacol. 2000;14(4):395-400.

Selective cognitive processing of drug cues in heroin dependence.

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  • 1Parnassia Addiction Research Centre, University of Maastricht, The Netherlands.


Previous studies provide evidence for the selective processing of disorder related stimuli on anxiety, depression, and eating disorders. There exist some preliminary indications that selective processing of drug cues may be involved in drug craving and relapse that deserve further investigation. In order to investigate the role of processing bias in an abnormal motivational system, the attentional bias for drug related stimuli was studied in a heroin dependent population. Heroin dependent participants (n = 21) and control participants (n = 30) performed a supra- and subliminal heroin Stroop task and heroin craving was assessed. Heroin dependent participants showed a considerable attentional bias for supraliminally presented heroin cues. However, there was no evidence for a preattentive bias on the subliminal presented cues. Reaction time on heroin cues was significantly predicted by heroin craving-levels. Results indicate that selective processing may be related to motivational induced states in general. The finding are discussed in the context of selective information processing in general psychopathology and in motivational processes as addiction specifically.

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