Cognitive functions in abstinent alcohol-dependent patients

Alcohol. 2012 Nov;46(7):665-71. doi: 10.1016/j.alcohol.2012.04.005. Epub 2012 Jun 14.


The objective of this cross-sectional study was to compare cognitive functioning of abstaining alcohol-dependent (AD) male patients and healthy controls as well as to investigate whether their cognitive performance varied by abstinence length. Forty-two maintaining abstinent (AD) patients and 34 healthy controls were examined. Tests from the Cambridge Neuropsychological Test Automated Battery (CANTAB) were used to assess cognitive functions. Differences in cognitive performance were found between AD patients and healthy controls. Nonverbal tasks in cognitive domains such as attention, visual memory and working memory were impaired in AD patients who presented deficits in visual episodic memory, had slower reaction time and reduced working memory span. Patients who were abstinent for less than one year made more errors in both attentional set shifting and working memory tests than healthy controls and patients with longer durations of abstinence. Impairments identified in multiple cognitive domains in abstinent alcohol-dependent subjects suggest functional deficits in extensive brain networks connecting interrelated brain structures. Attentional control and spatial working memory were less impaired in those AD patients who maintained abstinence for at least one year.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Alcoholics / psychology*
  • Alcoholism / physiopathology
  • Alcoholism / psychology*
  • Analysis of Variance
  • Attention
  • Brain / physiopathology
  • Case-Control Studies
  • Chi-Square Distribution
  • Cognition*
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Memory
  • Middle Aged
  • Neural Pathways / physiopathology
  • Neuropsychological Tests
  • Reaction Time
  • Temperance / psychology*
  • Time Factors