Experience-Dependent Recovery of Cognitive Functioning in Young Alcoholics

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Spontaneous recovery of some cognitive functioning in alcoholics after drinking has ceased has been convincingly demonstrated, but there have been no demonstrations of recovery that occurs primarily due to exposure of the alcoholic to specific environmental events. In the present study two groups of alcoholics began a 3-week series of tests sensitive to alcoholic cognitive dysfunction at different time lags after drinking ceased (1 week vs. at least 3 weeks). Each group received five administrations each of three weeks apart revealed the comparisons between the initial testings administered at least three weeks apart revealed the expected pattern of improvement concommitant with the passage of time. On the Halstead-Reitan Trailmaking Test (Part B), initial test scores were equivalent, showing no time-dependent recovery. Instead, performance improved solely as a function of repeated task administration, thus demonstrating “experience-dependent” recovery. Initial levels of impairment and the extent of recovery were established using two-alcoholic control groups. Since evidence has accrued that alcoholics' treatment outcome may relate to neuropsychological status, experience-dependent rehabilitation of cognitive functioning may improve success rates in alcoholism treatment.

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Addictive Behaviors, v. 10, issue 2, p. 169-176