Longitudinal changes in cognition, gait, and balance in abstinent and relapsed alcoholic men: relationships to changes in brain structure

Neuropsychology. 2000 Apr;14(2):178-88.


Chronic alcoholism is associated with cognitive and motor deficits, and there is evidence for reversibility with sobriety. Alcoholic men were examined after 1 month of sobriety and 2 to 12 months later with cognitive and motor tests and magnetic resonance imaging. In this naturalistic study, 20 alcoholic participants had abstained and 22 had resumed drinking at retesting. Abstainers sustained greater improvement than relapsers on tests of delayed recall of drawings, visuospatial function, attention, gait, and balance. Shrinkage in 3rd ventricle volume across all participants significantly correlated with improvement in nonverbal short-term memory. Additional brain structure-function relationships, most involving short-term memory, were observed when analyses were restricted to alcoholic men who had maintained complete abstinence, were light relapsers for at least 3 months, or had consumed no more than 10 drinks prior to follow-up testing. Thus, alcoholic men who maintain abstinence can show substantial functional improvement that is related to improvement in brain structure condition.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Alcoholism / pathology*
  • Alcoholism / psychology*
  • Alcoholism / rehabilitation
  • Brain / pathology*
  • Cerebral Ventricles / pathology
  • Cognition*
  • Gait*
  • Humans
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Male
  • Memory, Short-Term
  • Middle Aged
  • Neuropsychological Tests
  • Postural Balance*
  • Recurrence
  • Temperance*