Testing three theories of cognitive dysfunction in alcohol abuse

Analisi dei deficit neuropsicologici alcol-correlati alla luce di tre differenti ipotesi teoriche

C. Smeraldi, S.M. Angelone, M. Movalli, M. Cavicchioli, G. Mazza, A. Notaristefano, C. Maffei

Università di Palermo, Istituto Scientifico Ospedale San Raffaele Turro; Department of Clinical Neurosciences, Milano, Italy



Many hypotheses concerning the cognitive functions affected by chronic alcoholism have been advanced. The aim of this study was to test cognitive performance in a sample of alcoholics and to examine results comparing three different models: the frontal lobe hypothesis, the lateralisation hypothesis and the diffuse brain hypothesis.


Fifty-one patients who referred to an alcoholism service were included in this study. Cognitive functions were assessed by a trained psychologist using a specific neuropsychological battery.


Our results show a ranking of degrees of impairment in different cognitive functions with dissimilar influence on clinical features. In our sample, the frontal lobe hypothesis was disconfirmed. The results on right hemisphere seem to require more investigation and the generalized deficit hypothesis was not confirmed.


Cognitive deficits may compromise patients’ utilisation of rehabilitative information. Increasing attention is being given to the opportunity to integrate specific support for cognitive functions in alcohol detox programmes. The first step in programming clinical intervention is to have a complete overview of the cognitive deficits in alcoholics.

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