Comparison of impulsivity and working memory in cocaine addiction and pathological gambling: Implications for cocaine-induced neurotoxicity


Background: The aim of this study was to compare the cognitive performance of cocaine dependent individuals (CDI) with that of pathological gamblers (PG). Cocaine dependence and pathological gambling share neurobiological vulnerabilities related to addiction, but PG are relatively free of the toxic consequences, such that any additional deficits observed in CDI may be interpreted as pertaining to specific drug effects. Methods: We used a case-control observational design contrasting multiple measures of impulsivity (UPPS-P trait impulsivity, delay discounting) and executive measures of response inhibition (Stroop) and working memory performance (N-back) between groups of CDI (n = 29), PG (n = 23), and healthy controls (n = 20). We conducted one-way ANOVAs, followed by planned pairwise tests and calculations of Cohen's d to estimate significant differences between the groups. Results: CDI, as compared to PG, had elevated scores on UPPS-P Negative Urgency and poorer performance on working memory (2-back). PG had steeper delay-discounting rates. Both groups had elevated Positive Urgency and poorer Stroop inhibition compared to controls. Peak amount of cocaine use was negatively correlated with working memory and response inhibition performance. Conclusion: We found cocaine-related specific elevations in Negative Urgency and working memory deficits, putatively identified as cocaine neurotoxicity effects. Other aspects of impulsivity (Positive Urgency, Stroop inhibition) were increased across CDI and PG groups and may reflect vulnerability factors for addiction.

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