Revisiting the continuum hypothesis: toward an in-depth exploration of executive functions in korsakoff syndrome

Front Hum Neurosci. 2014 Jul 4;8:498. doi: 10.3389/fnhum.2014.00498. eCollection 2014.


Korsakoff syndrome (KS) is a neurological state mostly caused by alcohol-dependence and leading to disproportionate episodic memory deficits. KS patients present more severe anterograde amnesia than Alcohol-Dependent Subjects (ADS), which led to the continuum hypothesis postulating a progressive increase in brain and cognitive damages during the evolution from ADS to KS. This hypothesis has been extensively examined for memory but is still debated for other abilities, notably executive functions (EF). EF have up to now been explored by unspecific tasks in KS, and few studies explored their interactions with memory. Exploring EF in KS by specific tasks based on current EF models could thus renew the exploration of the continuum hypothesis. This paper will propose a research program aiming at: (1) clarifying the extent of executive dysfunctions in KS by tasks focusing on specific EF subcomponents; (2) determining the differential EF deficits in ADS and KS; (3) exploring EF-memory interactions in KS with innovative tasks. At the fundamental level, this exploration will test the continuum hypothesis beyond memory. At the clinical level, it will propose new rehabilitation tools focusing on the EF specifically impaired in KS.

Keywords: Korsakoff syndrome; alcohol-dependence; executive functions; inhibition.

Publication types

  • Review