Scientists on conducting a study on exploring the effects of recent cocaine use and abstinence have found that drug-related images immediately captured the attention among both active and abstinent cocaine users.
Using measures of brain activity over time, scientists at the U.S. Department of Energy's Brookhaven National Laboratory and Stony Brook University (SBU) carried out the study. abstinent cocaine users generally retained this heightened attentive engagement, those who had used cocaine within the past three days quickly lost their sensitivity, first to pleasant and then to drug-related and unpleasant evocative images - all within a mere 2000 milliseconds.
"Though a dampened response to drug images might appear helpful in those struggling with addiction, the impaired response to other emotional stimuli among recent cocaine users could indicate a general difficulty in sustaining motivated attention," said Rita Goldstein, director of Brookhaven's Neuropsychoimaging Group.
"Impairments in sustaining non-drug-related, goal-oriented motivation could predispose addicted individuals to drug use as a way to compensate for their reduced response to other reinforcement - including the rewards that would come from not taking drugs," she said.
The findings appear in a paper published online in the European Journal of Neuroscience.