RATIONALE: Recent studies provide evidence for specific aspects of cue processing in addictive disorders.
OBJECTIVE: The present study employs event related potentials (ERPs) to investigate heroin related visual information processing.
METHODS: Neutral and heroin related pictures were presented to 19 male abstinent heroin dependent patients and 14 male healthy controls.
RESULTS: Patients exhibited larger slow positive wave (SPW) components of the ERP on heroin related pictures than on neutral pictures. Within healthy control subjects there was no difference on the SPW between neutral and heroin pictures. Within heroin dependent patients, mean SPW response to heroin pictures was correlated with post-experiment craving.
CONCLUSION: This study provides neurophysiological evidence that information processing of drug-related information is abnormal in heroin dependent patients. The results provide further evidence for the cognitive and neurobiological accounts of substance dependence such as the incentive-sensitization theory.