Experience-Dependent Recovery of Cognitive Functioning in Older Alcoholics

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practice of tasks, recovery of verbal & visuospatial functioning, alcoholic males

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Exposed 2 groups of alcoholic males to verbal and visuospatial paired-associate learning tasks known to be sensitive to alcohol dysfunction. Group 1, with 16 Ss (mean age 52.19 yrs), received 4 task administrations 3–4 days apart, beginning 4 days after drinking stopped. Group 2, with 14 Ss (mean age 49.79 yrs), received identical administration beginning 16 days after drinking stopped. An alternate form of the tasks was administered at the final session to assess transfer of training. Two matched nonalcoholic control groups of 12 Ss each (mean age 50.79 yrs) established normative performance on both forms of the tasks. Although the alcoholic Ss' verbal learning was unimpaired, visuospatial functioning was equally impaired initially in both alcoholic groups despite differing periods of abstinence, indicating the lack of time-dependent recovery. However, practice with the visuospatial task resulted in improved visuospatial performance and positive transfer of training not significantly different from normal Ss. It is suggested that since alcoholism treatment outcome is related to neuropsychological status, rehabilitation of cognitive functioning may improve treatment success.

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Citation / Publisher Attribution

Journal of Abnormal Psychology, v. 94, issue 4, p. 519-529