Several studies indicate that individuals with substance use disorders (SUD) exhibit biases in the cognitive processing of substance-related stimuli. These biases facilitate the detection and selection of substance cues and have been argued to play a causal or perpetuating role in the reactivity to substance cues. Indeed, mounting evidence suggests that these cognitive processing biases are important in addictive behaviors. Two electrophysiological indices of cognitive processing, the P300 and Late Positive Potential (LPP) components of the event-related potential (ERP), are associated with the deployment of attentional resources to motivationally relevant stimuli. In the present metaanalysis P300 and LPP amplitudes are used to investigate whether SUD persons show enhanced cognitive processing of substance cues relative to neutral cues as opposed to healthy control participants. Seventeen studies yielding 30 independent subject samples and six studies yielding ten independent samples were selected for meta-analysis assessing cue-elicited P300 and LPP responses, respectively. Results indicated the P300 and LPP amplitude effect sizes were significantly larger in addicted participants than in controls. This result can be explained by substance users’ motivated attention, that is, the allocation of attention and memory resources to stimuli relevant to substance users’ motivational states. Additional stratified moderator analyses revealed that both P300 and LPP amplitudes were not moderated by electrode site (Fz vs. Pz), type of substance used (stimulants vs. depressants), substance use status (abstinent vs. non-abstinent), age, gender and task requirements (active vs. passive paradigms). These results indicate that enhanced electrophysiological processing of substance cues appears characteristic of SUD in general, might be independent of recency of substance use, and presumably occurs irrespective of task demands.

I.H.A. Franken (Ingmar)
Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research (NWO)
Erasmus University Rotterdam
Pediatric Psychiatry

Littel, M. (2012, June). Neuropsychological Correlates of Based Cognitive Processing in Addiction. Retrieved from