Maintenance of attention and pathological gambling

Abstract

In the study of addiction, attentional bias refers to the observation that substance-related cues tend to capture the attention of experienced substance users. Attentional bias is a cognitive intermediate in the conditioned association between drug-related cues, craving, and relapse. Numerous studies have documented the existence of attentional bias for cues associated with substances. By contrast, few studies have investigated attentional bias in individuals with pathological gambling (PG) or problematic gambling. In this study, we sought to assess attentional bias at the level of maintenance of attention in a sample of pathological gamblers. Twenty-three pathological gamblers and 21 healthy volunteers performed the Visual Probe Task to compare attentional bias with gambling-related cues between individuals with PG and healthy volunteers. The measured of attentional bias was based on their reaction times (RTs) to probes replacing neutral and gambling-related cues (images). Second, we examined the correlation between PG severity and degree of attentional bias among individuals with PG. Results show that pathological gamblers, but not healthy volunteers, had attentional bias for gambling-related cues with exposure times that assess maintenance of attention. There was no correlation between PG severity and degree of attentional bias. Theoretical and clinical implications of these results are discussed.

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