Alcohol Clin Exp Res. 1998 Jun;22(4):954-61. Related Articles, Links
Neurocognitive deficits in alcoholics and social drinkers: a continuum?
Oklahoma Center for Alcohol and Drug-Related Studies, Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center, Oklahoma City 73104, USA.
Our research program has investigated neurocognitive deficits in sober alcoholics for several decades. We have shown that both male and female adult alcoholics--compared with peer nonalcoholic controls--have deficits on tests of learning, memory, abstracting, problem-solving, perceptual analysis and synthesis, speed of information processing, and efficiency.
The deficits are equivalent to those found in patients with known brain dysfunction of a mild to moderate nature.
Attempts to identify factors other than alcoholism to account for these differences have been unsuccessful.
Results of recent studies support the hypothesis of a continuum of neurocognitive deficits ranging from the severe deficits found in Korsakoff patients to moderate deficits found in alcoholics and moderate to mild deficits in heavy social drinkers (more than 21 drinks/week).
Individual differences in the presence and magnitude of neurocognitive deficits in social drinkers and alcoholics are hypothesized to be due, in part, to individual differences in vulnerability of the brain to alcohol or its metabolites' toxic effects.