Experience-Dependent Cognitive Recovery in Alcoholics: a Task Component Strategy

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Visuospatial problem-solving deficits following chronic alcohol abuse may not readily recover spontaneously after drinking cessation but may reverse with appropriate environmental stimulation. To determine if such recovery in alcoholics under age 40 may be accelerated by training with components of an initially impaired task (Trails B), this study employed four groups of alcoholics (N = 53) and a group of matched controls (N = 13). Two alcoholic groups received two consecutive cognitive remediation sessions during the latter 2 weeks of a 1-month treatment program, and two groups of alcoholics received no remediation. Results confirmed that recovery of visuospatial problem-solving skills is facilitated by training with task components (experience-dependent recovery) while spontaneous recovery during the first month of abstinence is minimal for this task. These findings demonstrate the efficacy of cognitive remediation in reversing some alcohol-induced cognitive impairment and have important implications for improving alcohol treatment outcome and adaptive functioning.

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Journal of Studies on Alcohol, v. 49, issue 2, p. 142-148