Lifetime Alcohol Dependence Affects Cognitive Abilities in Aging Adults, Study Finds

Lifetime Alcohol Dependence Affects Cognitive Abilities in Aging Adults, Study Finds

Alcohol dependence results in a plethora of negative consequences, and research is still being done to understand exactly what those consequences are. A new study focuses on the relationship between alcohol dependence and aging adults, and was specific to understanding how the abuse affects cognitive abilities.

The Study

Researchers examined a group of recruits from the Brown University Center for AIDS Research. They wanted to measure any neurocognitive function deficits present in people who were heavy drinkers. The participants included 31 men and 35 women. The subjects’ levels of alcohol abuse were examined using a set of criteria created by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, and structured clinical interviews. These neurocognitive tests were grouped into different categories of cognitive function: memory, learning, attention/executive function, motor function, verbal function, and the relative speed of processing.

Out of the group, 21 were classified as current heavy drinkers. They were compared with non-drinkers and occasional drinkers. More than 50 percent of the participants had a lifetime history of alcohol dependence.

The Findings

The results, published in the Research Society on Alcoholism, revealed that current heavy drinkers do poorly on tests. Those with a history of alcohol dependence showed a cognitive decline; they had poorer performance in the aforementioned categories. The study also revealed that heavy drinking can lead to more serious neurotoxic effects. Although current drinking has associations with cognitive impairment, a lifetime history of alcohol abuse can lead to lasting negative consequences for neurocognitive functioning.   


“Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research,” September 22, 2016;