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Altered Adaptive But Not Veridical Decision-making In Substance Dependent Individuals


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Drug addiction is associated with impaired judgment in unstructured situations in which success depends on self-regulation of behavior according to internal goals (adaptive decision-making). However most executive measures are aimed at assessing decision-making in structured scenarios, in which success is determined by external criteria inherent to the situation (veridical decision-making). The aim of this study was to examine the performance of Substance Abusers (SA, n = 97) and Healthy Comparison participants (HC, n = 81) in two behavioral tasks that mimic the uncertainty inherent in real-life decision-making: the Cognitive Bias Task (CB) and the Iowa Gambling Task (IGT) (administered only to SA). A related goal was to study the interdependence between performances on both tasks. We conducted univariate analyses of variance (ANOVAs) to contrast the decision-making performance of both groups; and used correlation analyses to study the relationship between both tasks. SA showed a marked context-independent decision-making strategy on the CB's adaptive condition, but no differences were found on the veridical conditions in a subsample of SA (n = 34) and HC (n = 22). A high percentage of SA (75%) also showed impaired performance on the IGT. Both tasks were only correlated when no impaired participants were selected. Results indicate that SA show abnormal decision-making performance in unstructured situations, but not in veridical situations. (JINS, 2006, 12, 90–99.)