Context-processing abilities in chronic cocaine users

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Cocaine dependence is a particularly severe problem in the United States, resulting in broad economic and personal costs. Significant evidence of generalized cognitive deficits associated with cocaine dependence has been reported. Two studies evaluated whether context processing, the processes involved in representing and maintaining information regarding the context of one's environment, might be seen as a process-specific deficit that may explain some aspects of the broader cognitive deficits associated with cocaine dependence. Study 1 used the expectancy variant of the AX task to assess this ability; Study 2 employed the Dot Pattern Expectancy task. Significant between-groups differences were found in each study for d′-context, a comparison of AX hits and BX misses; these results indicated significant between-groups differences in context-processing ability. In Study 1, significant between-groups a priori contrasts of AY versus BX trials indicated the likelihood of a specific deficit in context processing in the cocaine group; however, this contrast was not significant in Study 2. Overall, the results of these studies support the theory of impaired context-processing ability associated with cocaine misuse. However, these results do not allow for the interpretation of a process-specific deficit in context-processing ability. Future research targeted at investigating aspects of this context-processing impairment associated with cocaine misuse can shed light on the specificity of this deficit.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)687-695
Number of pages9
JournalPsychology of Addictive Behaviors
Issue number3
StatePublished - Sep 2013


  • Cocaine
  • Cognitive control
  • Drug dependence
  • Executive functioning


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