Intact inhibitory control processes in abstinent drug abusers (II): A high-density electrical mapping study in former cocaine and heroin addicts

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Abstract

Response inhibition deficits are well-documented in drug users, and are related to the impulsive tendencies characteristic of the addictive phenotype. Addicts also show significant motivational issues that may accentuate these inhibitory deficits. We investigated the extent to which these inhibitory deficits are present in abstinence. Salience of the task stimuli was also manipulated on the premise that emotionally-valenced inputs might impact inhibitory efficacy by overcoming the blunted responses to everyday environmental inputs characteristic of this population. Participants performed response inhibition tasks consisting of both neutral and emotionally valenced stimuli while high-density event-related potentials (ERPs) were recorded. Electrophysiological responses (N2/P3 components) to successful inhibitions in abstinent abusers (N = 20) and non-using participants (N = 21) were compared. In contrast to previous work in current users, our abstinent cohort showed no detectable behavioral or electrophysiological differences in their inhibitory responses, and no differences on self-reports of impulsivity, despite their long histories of chronic use (mean = 10.3 years). The current findings are consistent with a recovery of inhibitory control processes as a function of abstinence. Abstinent former users, however, did show a reduced modulation, relative to controls, of their ERPs to valenced input while performing successful inhibitions, although contrary to our hypothesis, the use of valenced inputs had no impact on inhibitory performance. Reduced ERP modulation to emotionally valenced inputs may have implications for relapse in emotional contexts outside the treatment center.

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