Neural and Behavioral Correlates of Attentional Bias to Cannabis Cues Among Adults With Cannabis Use Disorders


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Abstract

The current pilot study probed the time course of attentional bias to cannabis-related cues among individuals with cannabis use disorders (CUDs) compared with healthy controls. Forty participants (individuals with CUDs, n = 20, Mage = 26.2 and healthy controls, n = 20, Mage = 28) completed a modified visual attention task in which they made decisions about the orientation of a target line while ignoring temporally flanking lines and cannabis-related, positive-, negative-, and neutral-images as behavioral responses and event-related potentials (ERPs) were recorded. To examine the time course of attentional bias, we analyzed ERP responses separately to targets and distractors from 125 ms to 620 ms after stimulus onset. Results showed that, compared with healthy controls, cannabis users demonstrated greater selective attention failure (i.e., had more difficulties ignoring distractor stimuli) when making decisions in the presence of cannabis cues. Likewise, cannabis smokers demonstrated relatively larger differences in accuracy (i.e., committed more errors in target decisions) between trials involving cannabis cues versus neutral cues. ERP data revealed that the N1 component (125–200 ms after stimulus onset) to flankers preceding cannabis cues peaked relatively earlier and was of larger amplitude in cannabis users, suggesting an early perceptual bias toward the cannabis cues. Findings suggest that individuals with CUDs have poorer selective attention, impaired inhibitory control, and early attentional biases toward cannabis uses compared with healthy nonusers. The augmented early perceptual response suggests an involuntary orienting of attention toward cannabis cues. Implications for future research and intervention development for individuals with CUD are discussed.

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