Recoverability of Psychological Functioning following Alcohol Abuse: Prolonged Visual-Spatial Dysfunction in Older Alcoholics

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recovery of neuropsychological functions, 20–29 vs 30–39 vs over 40 yr old alcoholics

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In order to track neuropsychological recovery as a function of age more precisely than in prior studies, 31 alcoholics were divided into 3 age groups (20–29, 30–39, and ≥ 40 yrs) and administered a repeatable neuropsychological test battery for the 3 mo immediately following cessation of drinking. Two control groups (15 college students and 15 individuals ≥ age 40 yrs) were also tested to assess practice effects, optimal test performance, and age-related test performance. Prior research has shown the tests used are sensitive to alcohol-related dysfunction and other transient drug toxicity. A variety of alcohol consumption and demographic variables were also studied as predictors of performance deficits. Results show that (a) alcoholics below age 40 yrs recovered completely from functional impairment by 2–3 wks after drinking ceased, and (b) alcoholics aged ≥ 40 yrs failed to recover over 3 mo on some but not all visuo-spatial tasks. Results suggest that beyond 40 yrs, humans increase in vulnerability to the toxic effects of alcohol or are less able to compensate for impairment of the neurological substrate.

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Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, v. 51, issue 3, p. 370-378