ISSN 2043-8087
Journal of Experimental Psychopathology
 Volume 4, Issue 3, 291-302, 2013
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Reduced Cognitive Processing of Alcohol Cues in Alcohol-Dependent Patients Seeking Treatment: An ERP Study

Marianne Littel(a), Matt Field(b), Ben J. M. van de Wetering(c), & Ingmar H. A. Franken(d)
(a) Clinical & Health Psychology, Utrecht University, the Netherlands
(b) School of Psychology, University of Liverpool, United Kingdom
(c) Bouman GGZ, Rotterdam, the Netherlands
(d) Institute of psychology, Erasmus University Rotterdam, the Netherlands

Volume 4, Issue 3, 2013, Pages 291-302

Substance-dependent individuals have been shown to display increased P3 amplitudes in response to substance-related stimuli. The P3 component of the event-related potential (ERP) has been associated with 'motivated attention' for substance cues. Enhanced processing of substance cues has not been unequivocally demonstrated in alcohol-dependent patients. The main goal of the present study was to further investigate electrophysiological processing of alcohol and non-alcohol (soft drink) cues in alcohol-dependent patients and controls. In addition, it was examined whether groups differed in the processing of positive emotional cues. Results showed that alcohol-dependent patients did not respond with more enlarged P3 amplitudes to alcohol cues than soft drink cues. At fronto-central sites they even showed reduced alcohol cue-elicited P3 amplitudes as compared to controls. These results are in line with results from studies using behavioral measures of cognitive processing and might be explained by the use of avoidance strategies, i.e., patients' effort to remain abstinent or control their alcohol use. There were no differences between groups regarding the processing of positive cues. Interpretations and implications of the findings are discussed.

Table of Contents
Self-report measures
ERP recording and analysis
Self-report data
ERP data
Other results
Conclusions and implications

Correspondence to
Marianne Littel, Institute of Psychology, Erasmus University Rotterdam, Woudestein T13-12, P.O. Box 1738, 3000 DR Rotterdam, The Netherlands.

alcohol; alcohol-dependent patients; event-related potentials; ERP; motivated attention; processing bias

Received 23 Feb 2012; Revised 26 Jul 2012; Accepted 13 Jan 2013; In Press 21 Jul 2013

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