For those experiencing substance use disorders (SUDs) to drugs or alcohol, exposing oneself to situations and triggers that may remind them of previous substance use might prompt drug cravings, which could disrupt one’s efforts to continue abstaining from that substance.

Part of the reason for this situation may be attributed to attentional bias, which is the tendency for substance-associated cues to interfere with one’s thinking and distract their attention away from engaging in other activities and pulling them towards substance-related stimuli.

Attentional bias is of clinical importance as it relates to current substance use and the risk of relapse.

Assessing Attentional Bias

Researchers determine attentional bias through measurements of how long it takes someone to perform a mental task while exposed to the substance, or drug, cues irrelevant to that task. There is, however, a lack of animal research on attentional bias.

This lack of research creates difficulties in determining the particular brain regions involved in the processes associated with attentional bias. Researchers began by developing a model utilizing animals from previous research with histories of cocaine self-administration.

The researchers exposed these animals to non-drug cues as well as cocaine-associated cues while the animals performed a simple task that required them to touch a target to get a reward. During this task, the researchers recorded electrical activity within the animal’s brains.

They found that when the distractions included cocaine-related cues, the animal subjects took longer to respond to the simple task when compared to the trials with non-drug cues.

Understanding the regions of the brain involved in attentional bias may help researchers develop treatment options that could help prevent relapses triggered by substance, or drug, cues. Therefore, research such as this could lead to interventions that may persuade the brain to pay attention to healthier cues and ignore the unhealthy substance ones.

Looking for Help?

Exposure to specific situations may trigger a relapse. Due to the effect of exposure on the brain, it is crucial to explore this causal relationship and discover ways to inhibit this trigger from occurring.

At Alta Loma Transformational Living, you will meet knowledgeable, compassionate professionals that understand addiction in all its forms.  Alta Loma uses an integrative and holistic approach to treat addiction and mental health issues. No treatment is one-size-fits-all, where you will have a team of experts prepared to create your customized treatment plan.

We offer care for your mind, body, and spirit so that you can heal from the inside out and look forward to a lifetime of sobriety and wellness. If you are ready to take the first step in your recovery, please call us at 866-457-3843.