Psychophysiological prediction of choice: Relevance to insight and drug addiction

Scott J. Moeller, Greg Hajcak, Muhammad A. Parvaz, Jonathan P. Dunning, Nora D. Volkow, Rita Z. Goldstein

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

42 Scopus citations


An important goal of addiction research and treatment is to predict behavioural responses to drug-related stimuli. This goal is especially important for patients with impaired insight, which can interfere with therapeutic interventions and potentially invalidate self-report questionnaires. This research tested (i) whether event-related potentials, specifically the late positive potential, predict choice to view cocaine images in cocaine addiction; and (ii) whether such behaviour prediction differs by insight (operationalized in this study as self-awareness of image choice). Fifty-nine cocaine abusers and 32 healthy controls provided data for the following laboratory components that were completed in a fixed-sequence (to establish prediction): (i) event-related potential recordings while passively viewing pleasant, unpleasant, neutral and cocaine images, during which early (400-1000 ms) and late (1000-2000 ms) window late positive potentials were collected; (ii) self-reported arousal ratings for each picture; and (iii) two previously validated tasks: one to assess choice for viewing these same images, and the other to group cocaine abusers by insight. Results showed that pleasant-related late positive potentials and arousal ratings predicted pleasant choice (the choice to view pleasant pictures) in all subjects, validating the method. In the cocaine abusers, the predictive ability of the late positive potentials and arousal ratings depended on insight. Cocaine-related late positive potentials better predicted cocaine image choice in cocaine abusers with impaired insight. Another emotion-relevant event-related potential component (the early posterior negativity) did not show these results, indicating specificity of the late positive potential. In contrast, arousal ratings better predicted respective cocaine image choice (and actual cocaine use severity) in cocaine abusers with intact insight. Taken together, the late positive potential could serve as a biomarker to help predict drug-related choice - and possibly associated behaviours (e.g. drug seeking in natural settings, relapse after treatment) - when insight (and self-report) is compromised.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)3481-3494
Number of pages14
Issue number11
StatePublished - Nov 2012
Externally publishedYes


  • choice behaviour
  • cocaine addiction
  • event-related potentials
  • insight
  • late positive potential
  • unconscious motivation


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