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Drug Alcohol Depend. 2007 Oct 8;90(2-3):183-92. Epub 2007 Apr 16.

Impaired time perception and motor timing in stimulant-dependent subjects.

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Department of Psychiatry, University of California San Diego, 9500 Gilman Drive, La Jolla, CA 92093-9116A, USA.


Stimulant-dependent individuals (SDI) have abnormal brain metabolism and structural changes involving dopaminergic target areas important for the processing of time. These individuals are also more impulsive and impaired in working memory and attention. The current study tested whether SDI show altered temporal processing in relation to impulsivity or impaired prefrontal cortex functioning. We employed a series of timing tasks aimed to examine time processing from the milliseconds to multiple seconds range and assessed cognitive function in 15 male SDI and 15 stimulant-naïve individuals. A mediation analysis determined the degree to which impulsivity or executive dysfunctions contributed to group differences in time processing. SDI showed several abnormal time processing characteristics. SDI needed larger time differences for effective duration discrimination, particularly for intervals of around 1s. SDI also accelerated finger tapping during a continuation period after a 1Hz pacing stimulus was removed. In addition, SDI overestimated the duration of a relatively long time interval, an effect which was attributable to higher impulsivity. Taken together, these data show for the first time that SDI exhibit altered time processing in several domains, one which can be explained by increased impulsivity. Altered time processing in SDI could explain why SDI have difficulty delaying gratification.

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