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Shanghai Arch Psychiatry. 2013 Jun;25(3):141-8. doi: 10.3969/j.issn.1002-0829.2013.03.003.

Case-control study of error-related negativity among males with heroin dependence undergoing rehabilitation.

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Shanghai Mental Health Center, Shanghai Jiao Tong University School of Medicine, Shanghai, China.


in English, Chinese


There were 1.2 million registered heroin users in China by the end of 2011, but little research in the country has focused on the neuropsychological functioning of these individuals.


Assess error-related negativity (ERN) - an important indicator of high-level cognitive functioning - among males with heroin dependence undergoing rehabilitation.


Twenty male patients in a rehabilitation center who met DSM-IV criteria for heroin dependence and 15 healthy male controls completed 800 trials of Erikson flanker tasks to provoke ERN waves on the 32-electrode electroencephalograph (EEG) when erroneous responses are induced by presenting incongruent flankers around the target stimulus. Mean error rates and reaction times for the task, and the amplitude and latency of crude ERN waves and standardized ERN waves (created by subtracting the wave for correct responses from that for incorrect responses) at three frontal midline EEG electrodes (Fz, FCz, and Cz) were compared between patients and controls.


There was no significant difference in error rates between patients and controls but the reaction times for both erroneous and correct responses were shorter in patients than controls. The amplitude of both crude and standardized ERN waves was lower in patients than controls, but this difference became non-significant after adjustment for the lower educational level in the patient group. The latency of the peak value in both the crude and standardized ERN waves was significantly shorter in the patient group; this difference remained significant after adjustment for educational level. There was a significant correlation between the negative amplitude of the standardized ERN wave and the duration of heroin use.


These findings suggest impaired impulse control and abnormal error-monitoring functions in persons with a history of heroin dependence and add to the growing literature on the neurological mechanisms related to cognitive dysfunction in individuals with addictive disorders.

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