The neuropsychological profile of alcohol-related dementia suggests cortical and subcortical pathology

Kara S. Schmidt, Jennifer L. Gallo, Christine Ferri, Tania Giovannetti, Nicole Sestito, David J. Libon, Paul S. Schmidt

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

49 Scopus citations


The neuropathology associated with chronic alcohol abuse varies across studies, though research suggests generalized reductions in cortical and subcortical grey and white matter. Neuropsychological findings also differ within the literature. The inconsistent findings with respect to the neuropathology and neurobehavior of patients with histories of alcohol abuse may be due, at least in part, to differing nosology and the highly variable inclusion/exclusion criteria employed by researchers. Oslin et al. [Int J Geriatr Psychiatry 1998;13:203-212] have proposed and recently validated specific criteria for probable alcohol-related dementia (ARD). We were interested in comparing the neuropsychological profile of ARD patients with the neurocognitive profiles of typical cortical and subcortical dementia patients. Participants included 14 ARD patients, 15 patients diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease (AD), 13 patients diagnosed with subcortical vascular dementia (VaD), and 20 normal controls. Patient subgroups were similar with respect to age (mean = 79), education (mean = 12 years) and dementia severity (MMSE; mean = 22.1). The three dementia patient subgroups demonstrated significantly worse performance than the normal controls subgroup on all neuropsychological tests. The ARD subgroup exhibited very similar executive control deficits to VaD patients. However, the different neurocognitive profiles of the patient subgroups suggest that ARD patients may also, in fact, demonstrate some degree of amnesia given that they perform slightly worse than subcortical patients on delayed verbal free recall and recognition. Nonetheless, the ARD patients did not display as severe impairment as the AD patients on the memory tasks. No significant differences between the three patient groups were identified on language tests. In sum, we present preliminary evidence of a distinct neuropsychological profile for ARD patients that includes impairment on both executive control and memory tests. This pattern of performance suggests that long-term alcohol abuse, in comparison to AD and VaD, may be associated with both cortical and subcortical neuropathology.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)286-291
Number of pages6
JournalDementia and Geriatric Cognitive Disorders
Issue number5
StatePublished - Oct 2005
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Geriatrics and Gerontology
  • Cognitive Neuroscience
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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