NEUROCOGNITIVE ASSESSMENT OF ALCOHOL INPATIENTSDURING RECOVERY FROM ALCOHOLISM*
AbstractBACKGROUND Alcohol dependence is characterized by a neuropsychological profile of extensive impairment in executive functions, visuospatial abilities, sociocognitive, emotional and motivational dysfunctions. A growing body of research evidence suggests that alcoholism-relatedstructural and functional brain changes may underlay abovementioned deficits. Nevertheless, certain alcohol-related impairments are reversible with abstinence. Several studiesindicated that with prolonged abstinence functional improvement in memory, visuospatial abilities, and attention occur within 3 to 4 weeks of abstinence accompanied by at leastpartial reversal of brain shrinkage and some recovery of metabolic functions in the frontallobes and cerebellum, as well as with increased cortical grey matter volume. METHODS 33 male abstinent alcohol inpatients (average abstinence: 8 weeks) and 36 healthy controls were tested on the following domains: attention (classical vs. emotional Stroop Task),working memory (spatial vs. verbal), visuospatial abilities (Benton Face Recognition Task,Line Orientation Test), emotionality (Ekman Emotional Recognition Task, Test of Emotional Styles, Beck Depression Inventory) and motivation (Behavioural Inhibition/Activation Scale). RESULTS Alcohol abstainers compared to healthy controls showed impaired attention, more depressive symptoms and overactive activation behavioural system, whereas the working memory and visuospatial tasks did not reveal significant differences between groups. A specificneuropsychological profile has been found among alcohol abstainers with suicidal historywhere lower emotion recognition ability and attention difficulties with emotional stimulihave been recorded. CONCLUSIONS Our study demonstrated that some alcohol-related cognitive, emotional and motivationaldeficits can also persist to certain extent after several weeks of sobriety. Especially alcoholabstainers with suicidal history revealed a specific neuropsychological profile in this regard. Employed neurocognitive assessment proved as useful approach for clinical evaluation of alcohol abstainers functioning, since cognitive deficits have been also hypothesizedto affect the efficacy of alcoholism treatment
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