What is abnormal about addiction-related attentional biases?
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BACKGROUND: The phenotype of addiction includes prominent attentional biases for drug cues, which play a role in motivating drug-seeking behavior and contribute to relapse. In a separate line of research, arbitrary stimuli have been shown to automatically capture attention when previously associated with reward in non-clinical samples. METHODS AND RESULTS: Here, I argue that these two attentional biases reflect the same cognitive process. I outline five characteristics that exemplify attentional biases for drug cues: resistant to conflicting goals, robust to extinction, linked to dorsal striatal dopamine and to biases in approach behavior, and can distinguish between individuals with and without a history of drug dependence. I then go on to describe how attentional biases for arbitrary reward-associated stimuli share all of these features, and conclude by arguing that the attentional components of addiction reflect a normal cognitive process that promotes reward-seeking behavior.
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