Alcoholics can have deficits in visuoperception and frontal executive function despite sobriety

  • Detoxified alcoholics often have visuospatial and visuoperceptual deficits.
  • Even with prolonged sobriety, alcoholics show deficits in visuoperception and frontal executive functions.
  • Alcoholics also appear to use high-level, frontal executive functions to perform tasks that individuals without a history of alcoholism do not need to use to perform the same tasks at normal levels.

Detoxified alcoholics often have visuospatial and visuoperceptual deficits, characterized by difficulties completing tasks such as putting pieces of a puzzle together or map reading. A new study has found that, even with prolonged sobriety, alcoholics show deficits in visuoperception and frontal executive functioning of the brain. Furthermore, alcoholics utilize a more complex higher-order cognitive system, frontal executive functions, to perform the same tasks as individuals without a history of alcoholism. Results are published in the November issue of Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research.

"Alcoholics often show impairment in visuospatial and visuoperceptual tasks such as copying a complex geometric figure or reading a map," said Edith Sullivan, a professor in the department of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Stanford University School of Medicine. "These deficits can impair everyday living, in that individuals with visuospatial or visuoperceptual deficits may be unable to accurately assess distance and spatial relations between objects, which could lead, for example, to driving problems."

"Because Western society is largely verbal as opposed to visual-spatial, much emphasis is placed on verbal processes," added Sara Jo Nixon, professor and director of the Neurocognitive Laboratory at the University of Kentucky. "Yet, visual-spatial processes contribute in very significant ways to virtually every aspect of daily life. The capacity to efficiently use visual-spatial cues, detect changes and consi


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