Cognitive Impairment in Chronic Alcoholics: Some Cause for Optimism

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research & treatment of cognitive impairment, chronic alcoholics

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Even after they cease drinking, many alcoholics show continued impairment of cognitive functioning on both intelligence and neuropsychological tests, with deficits being apparent in visual perception, learning and memory, and the use of problem-solving strategies. Neuropsychological investigations have suggested that these deficits reflect premature aging, a direct dose response relationship, or localized brain damage. However, studies have shown that a considerable recovery of cognitive functioning occurs, most dramatically after drinking cessation and more slowly thereafter. Tasks that require novel, complex, and rapid information processing require longer to recover, and persistent impairments in visual-spatial abilities, abstraction and problem solving, and short-term memory are common, particularly in older alcoholics. Practical applications of this research are discussed in terms of the possibility of reducing cognitive dysfunction and improving treatment outcome in alcoholics.

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Citation / Publisher Attribution

American Psychologist, v. 38, issue 10, p. 1045-1054