Neurocognitive impairments are prevalent in persons seeking treatment for alcohol use disorders (AUDs). These impairments and their physical, social, psychological and occupational consequences vary in severity across persons, much like those resulting from traumatic brain injury; however, due to their slower course of onset, alcohol-related cognitive impairments are often overlooked both within and outside of the treatment setting. Evidence suggests that cognitive impairments can impede treatment goals through their effects on treatment processes. Although some recovery of alcohol-related cognitive impairments often occurs after cessation of drinking (time-dependent recovery), the rate and extent of recovery is variable across cognitive domains and individuals. Following a long hiatus in scientific interest, a new generation of research aims to facilitate treatment process and improve AUD treatment outcomes by directly promoting cognitive recovery (experience-dependent recovery). This review updates knowledge about the nature and course of cognitive and brain impairments associated with AUD, including cognitive effects of adolescent AUD. We summarize current evidence for indirect and moderating relationships of cognitive impairment to treatment outcome, and discuss how advances in conceptual frameworks of brain-behavior relationships are fueling the development of novel AUD interventions that include techniques for cognitive remediation. Emerging evidence suggests that such interventions can be effective in promoting cognitive recovery in persons with AUD and other substance use disorders, and potentially increasing the efficacy of AUD treatments. Finally, translational approaches based on cognitive science, neurophysiology, and neuroscience research are considered as promising future directions for effective treatment development that includes cognitive rehabilitation.
Alcoholism; Cognitive impairment; Brain damage; Cognitive recovery; Cognitive enhancement; Cognitive training
Neuropsychological and cognitive deficits are observed in the majority of persons with alcohol and drug use disorders and may interfere with treatment processes and outcomes. Although, on average, the brain and cognition improve with abstinence or markedly reduced substance use, better understanding of the heterogeneity in the time-course and extent of cognitive recovery at the individual level is useful to promote bench-to-bedside translation and inform clinical decision making. This study integrated a variable-centered and a person-centered approach to characterize diversity in cognitive recovery in 197 patients in treatment for a substance use disorder. We assessed executive function, verbal ability, memory, and complex information processing speed at treatment entry, and then 6, 26, and 52 weeks later. Structural equation modeling was used to define underlying ability constructs and determine the mean level of cognitive changes in the sample while minimizing measurement error and practice effects on specific tests. Individual-level empirical growth plots of latent factor scores were used to explore prototypical trajectories of cognitive change. At the level of the mean, small to medium effect size gains in cognitive abilities were observed over 1 year. At the level of the individual, the mean trajectory of change was also the modal individual recovery trajectory shown by about half the sample. Other prototypical cognitive change trajectories observed in all four cognitive domains included Delayed Gain, Loss of Gain, and Continuous Gain. Together these trajectories encompassed between 86 and 94% of individual growth plots across the four latent abilities. Further research is needed to replicate and predict trajectory membership. Replication of the present findings would have useful implications for targeted treatment planning and the new cognitive interventions being developed to enhance treatment outcomes.
cognitive recovery; neuropsychological impairment; longitudinal; person-centered; variable-centered; treatment; substance use disorders; alcohol use disorders
Sterba and Bauer's Keynote Article discusses the blurred distinction between theoretical principles and analytical methods in the person-oriented approach as problematic and review which of the person-oriented principles are testable under the four types of latent variable models for longitudinal data. Although the issue is important, some arbitrariness exists in determining whether a given principle can be tested within each analytic approach. To close the gap between person-oriented theory and methods and to extend the person-oriented approach more generally, it is necessary to embrace both variable-oriented and person-oriented methods because it is not the individual analytic methods but how studies are implemented as a whole that defines the person-oriented approach. Three areas in developmental psychopathology are discussed in which variable-oriented and person-oriented methods can be complementary. The need to better understand the target system using an appropriate person-specific tool is graphically illustrated. Several concepts of dynamic systems such as attractors, phase transitions, and control parameters are illustrated using experimentally perturbed cardiac rhythms (heart rate variability) as an example in the context of translational alcohol research.
Risk covariates of neuropsychological ability (NA) at treatment entry and neuropsychological recovery (NR) across 15 months were examined and replicated in 2 samples (Ns = 952 and 774) from Project MATCH, a multisite study of alcoholism treatments. NA at treatment entry was associated with age, education, and other covariates. Statistically significant mean increases in NA over time had small effect sizes, suggesting limited clinical significance of NR in the samples as a whole. However, initial NA and a combination of risk factors in direct and mediated pathways predicted a large proportion of individual differences in NR. Statistically significant but modest differential treatment effects on NR suggest that addiction treatments may need to be modified or developed to facilitate this important aspect of recovery.
Basic mechanisms through which men and women self-regulate arousal have received little attention in human experimental addiction research although stress-response-dampening and craving theories suggest an important role of emotional arousal in motivating alcohol use. This study examined gender differences in the effects of acute alcohol intoxication on psychophysiological and self-reported arousal in response to emotionally negative, positive, and neutral, and alcohol-related, picture cues. Thirty-six social drinkers (16 women) were randomly assigned to an alcohol, placebo, or control beverage group, and exposed to picture cues every 10 s (0.1 Hz presentation frequency). Psychophysiological arousal was assessed via a 0.1-Hz heart rate variability (HRV) index. A statistically significant beverage group-by-gender interaction effect on psychophysiological, but not self-reported, arousal was found. 0.1-Hz HRV responses to picture cues were suppressed by alcohol only in men. This gender-specific suppression pattern did not differ significantly across picture cue types. There were no significant gender differences in the placebo or control group. Greater dampening of arousal by alcohol intoxication in men, compared to women, may contribute to men's greater tendency to use alcohol to cope with stress.
Gender; Emotion regulation; Heart Rate Variability (HRV); Alcohol Use; Stress
Paced 0.1 Hz breathing causes high amplitude HR oscillation, triggering resonance in the cardiovascular system (CVS). This oscillation is considered to be a primary therapeutic factor in HRV biofeedback treatments. This study examined whether rhythmical skeletal muscle tension (RSMT) can also cause 0.1 Hz resonance in the CVS, and compared oscillatory reactivity in CVS functions caused by RSMT and paced breathing (PB). Sixteen young healthy participants completed five tasks: baseline, three RSMT tasks at frequencies of 0.05, 0.1, and 0.2 Hz, and a 0.1 Hz PB task. ECG, respiration, finger pulse, and skin conductance data were collected. Results showed that 0.1 Hz RSMT as well as 0.1 Hz PB triggered resonance in the CVS and caused equivalent oscillations in all measured CVS functions, although in women, RSMT compared to PB caused lower HR oscillation. Clinical application of 0.1 Hz RSMT is discussed.
The arterial baroreflex system (BRS) consists of at least three closed-loop control systems: the heart rate (HR), vascular tone (VT), and stroke volume (SV) BRSs. Whereas HR-BRS gain is well studied, VT-BRS and SV-BRS gain are not. This study aimed to develop a method for quantifying VT-BRS and SV-BRS gain using an established HR-BRS gain measurement approach. ECG and beat-to-beat blood pressure (BP) were recorded in 31 young healthy participants during three tasks. Sequences of R-to-R wave intervals (RRI) of the ECG, pulse transit time (PTT), and SV were measured to assess HR-, VT-, and SV-BRS gain using the cross-spectral technique of computing the BP-RRI, BP-PTT, and BP-SV transfer functions. Gain in each BRS arch was measured in individuals with intact BRS functioning. Functional overlap and independence was noted in the BRS arches. The implications of the proposed method are discussed.
Neurocognitive mechanisms have long been hypothesized to influence developmental trajectories of antisocial behavior. However, studies examining this association tend to aggregate a variety of problem behaviors that may be differently affected by neurocognitive deficits.
To describe the developmental trajectories of physical violence and theft from adolescence to adulthood, their associations, and the neurocognitive characteristics of individuals following different patterns of trajectory association.
Accelerated cohort-sequential, longitudinal design.
Rutgers Health and Human Development Project.
Six hundred ninety-eight men.
Main Outcome Measures
Self-reports of physical violence (ages 12–24 years) and theft (ages 12–31 years) were collected across 5 waves. Neurocognitive performance was assessed with executive function and verbal IQ tests between late adolescence and early adulthood.
The majority (55%) of subjects showed an increased frequency of theft during the study period, while only a minority (13%) evinced an increasing frequency of physical violence. Executive function and verbal IQ performance were negatively related to high frequency of physical violence but positively related to high frequency of theft.
Developmental trajectories of physical violence and theft during adolescence and early adulthood are different and differently related to neurocognitive functioning. Global indexes of antisocial behavior mask the development of antisocial behavior subtypes and putative causal mechanisms.
PMID: 17485611 CAMSID: cams2115
Impulsive behavior in humans predicts the onset of drinking during adolescence and alcohol use disorders (AUDs) in adulthood. It is also possible, however, that heavy drinking may increase impulsive behavior by affecting the development of brain areas that support behavioral control or through other associated mechanisms. This study examined whether drinking heavily during adolescence is related to changes in impulsive behavior with a specific focus on how the association differs across individuals, contingent on the developmental course of their impulsiveness.
Data came from a sample of boys (N=503) who were followed annually from approximate age 8 to age 18 and again at approximate age 24/25. Heavy drinking was defined as experiencing a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) level of .08% or higher. At each assessment, the parent and child each reported whether the child was impulsive.
First, group-based trajectory analysis was used to identify four groups differing in the level and slopes of their trajectories of impulsive behavior from age 9 to age 17: low (13.9%), early adolescence-limited (18.7%), moderate (60.8%) and high (6.6%). These trajectory groups differed in their prevalence of any heavy drinking, peak BACs, and rates of alcohol dependence in adolescence and AUD in early adulthood, with the less impulsive groups being lower on these measures than the more impulsive groups. Heavy drinking was then entered into the model as a time-varying covariate; this measure was lagged so that the results represent change in impulsive behavior the year following heavy drinking. Among boys on the moderate trajectory, those who drank heavily were rated as significantly more impulsive the following year compared to those who did not drink heavily.
The association between heavy drinking and impulsive behavior may depend on earlier levels of impulsive behavior with those who are moderately impulsive appearing to be at greatest risk for increased impulsive behavior following heavy drinking. Further research is needed to clarify this association.
impulsivity; impulsive behavior; heavy drinking; adolescence; trajectories
Human adaptability involves interconnected biological and psychological control processes that determine how successful we are in meeting internal and environmental challenges. Heart rate variability (HRV), the variability in consecutive R-wave to R-wave intervals (RRI) of the electrocardiogram, captures synergy between the brain and cardiovascular control systems that modulate adaptive responding. Here we introduce a qualitatively new dimension of adaptive change in HRV quantified as a redistribution of spectral power by applying the Wasserstein distance with exponent 1 metric (W1) to RRI spectral data. We further derived a new index, D, to specify the direction of spectral redistribution and clarify physiological interpretation. We examined gender differences in real time RRI spectral power response to alcohol, placebo and visual cue challenges. Adaptive changes were observed as changes in power of the various spectral frequency bands (i.e., standard frequency domain HRV indices) and, during both placebo and alcohol intoxication challenges, as changes in the structure (shape) of the RRI spectrum, with a redistribution towards lower frequency oscillations. The overall conclusions from the present study are that the RRI spectrum is capable of a fluid and highly flexible response, even when oscillations (and thus activity at the sinoatrial node) are pharmacologically suppressed, and that low frequency oscillations serve a crucial but less studied role in physical and mental health.
Aim: This functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) study examined reactivity to alcohol, polydrug, marijuana and emotional picture cues in students who were referred to a college alcohol and drug assistance program. Methods: The fMRI data of 10 participants (5 females; 5 males) were collected while they viewed standardized emotional and appetitive cues. Results: Positive and negative emotional cues produced greater activity than neutral cues in the expected brain areas. Compared with neutral cues, alcohol cues produced greater brain activation in the right insula, left anterior cingulate, left caudate and left prefrontal cortex (Z = 2.01, 1.86, 1.82, 1.81, respectively; P < 0.05). Drug cues produced significantly greater left prefrontal activity compared with neutral cues, with polydrug cues activating the right insula and marijuana cues activating left anterior cingulate. Conclusions: Students at-risk for alcohol abuse showed neural reactivity to alcohol cues in four brain regions, which is consistent with their greater use of alcohol. Insula activation to appetitive cues may be an early marker of risk for progression to alcohol/drug abuse.
Aims: This study examined brain activity using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) and reaction time (RT) during an implicit repetition priming memory task involving alcohol, polydrug, marijuana and emotional picture cues. Methods: Participants were 5 male and 5 female high-risk college students who had just participated in a cue exposure study (Ray et al., this issue). fMRI and RT data were collected while participants made decisions about previously seen and new picture cues. Results: Both behavioral RT and brain imaging data revealed strong memory priming for drug and alcohol cues. Neurologically, a repetition priming effect (suppression in neural activity for repeated cues) was observed in response to alcohol cues in the left prefrontal, bilateral occipital, and bilateral occipitotemporal regions, as well as right insula and right precuneus (Z ranged from 3.03 to 3.31 P < 0.05). Polydrug cues elicited priming in the occipital and temporal areas, and marijuana cues in the occipital area. Conclusions: Prefrontal and insular cortex involvement both in reactivity to alcohol cues (Ray et al., this issue) and subsequent implicit memory processing of these cues, as found in this study, suggests their potential role in the maintenance of high-risk alcohol use behaviors.
This study examined alcohol use behaviors as well as physiological, personality, and motivational measures of arousal in students approximately 2 years after they were mandated to a brief intervention program for violating university policies about on-campus substance use. Students were categorized into serious (medical referrals, n=13) or minor (residence advisor referrals, n = 30) infraction groups based on the nature of the incident that led to their being mandated. Self-report measures of arousal, sensation seeking, reasons for drinking, and past 30-day alcohol use were completed. Physiological arousal during exposure to emotional picture cues was assessed by indices of heart rate variability. The minor infraction group reported significantly escalating alcohol use patterns over time and a pattern of less regulated psychophysiological reactivity to external stimuli compared to the serious infraction group. The serious infraction group was higher in sensation seeking and there was some evidence of greater disparity between their physiological and self-reported experiences of emotional arousal in response to picture cues than in the minor group. Thus, the two infraction groups represent different subsets of mandated students, both of whom may be at some risk for using alcohol maladaptively. The findings suggest that intervention strategies that address self-regulation may be beneficial for mandated college students.
emotional reactivity; affective cue; self-reported arousal; heart rate variability; psychophysiology; college students
The Controlled Oral Word Association (COWA) Test is a brief and sensitive measure of executive cognitive dysfunction. There are two commonly used forms of the test, one using the letters F, A, and S, and the other using C, F, and L. This study examines the relative difficulty of the two forms using a meta-analytic approach that includes multiple samples of normal individuals. The effects of age, education, gender composition, exclusion criteria, and age of study are also examined. Results indicate that the CFL form of the test is more difficult and that age, education, and the use of strict exclusion criteria influence performance. Performance is more variable for the FAS form, and age and age of study influence performance variability.
Verbal Fluency; Controlled Oral Word Association Test; COWA; FAS; CFL
Cognitive impairments are frequently observed in clients who enter treatment programs for substance abuse. The potential for early recovery of cognitive abilities is suggested by previous research; however, the extent of improvement and risk factors that may help predict individual differences in rates of recovery remain unclear. This study is a 6-week follow-up and retest of an original sample of 197 men and women who had received a broad neuropsychological assessment at addiction treatment entry. The aim was to examine the potential clinical significance of changes in cognitive functioning and the extent to which differential recovery was predictable from client background information.
Fifteen neuropsychological tests were readministered to 169 of 197 clients 6 weeks after treatment entry. Structural equation modeling was used to estimate separately the practice effects and recovery in four cognitive domains: executive function, memory, information processing speed, and verbal ability. Client background information included age, sex, education, substance use and consequences, psychopathology, medical problems, familial alcoholism history, and childhood behavior problems.
A four-factor model of latent neuropsychological ability that was previously identified at treatment entry was replicated at follow-up. Statistically significant increases in the means of the four latent abilities were found. Memory showed a medium effect size improvement. Executive function, verbal ability, and information processing speed, however, showed only small effect size improvements, suggesting limited clinical significance. Substance use between treatment entry and follow-up, antisocial personality disorder, negative use consequences, less education, and medical problems were modestly predictive of less recovery.
Cognitive recovery in the first 6 weeks of treatment is possible, but, with the possible exception of memory, improvement may be minor in terms of clinical relevance.
cognitive impairment; cognitive recovery; individual differences
Serious neuropsychological impairments are seen in a minority of addiction treatment clients, and, theoretically, these impairments should undermine behavioral changes targeted by treatment; however, little evidence supports a direct influence of impairment on treatment response. To address this paradox, the authors used structural equation modeling and Project MATCH data (N = 1,726) to examine direct, mediated, and moderated paths between cognitive impairment, therapeutic processes, and treatment outcome. Mediated relations were found, wherein impairment led to less treatment compliance, lower self-efficacy, and greater Alcoholics Anonymous Involvement, which, in turn, more proximally predicted drinking. Impairment further moderated the effect of self-efficacy, making it a poor predictor of drinking outcomes in impaired clients, thereby suggesting that impaired and unimpaired clients traverse different pathways to addiction recovery.
Heart rate variability (HRV) supports emotion regulation and is reduced by alcohol. Based on the resonance properties of the cardiovascular system, a new 0.1-Hz methodology was developed to present emotional stimuli and assess HRV reaction in participants (N=36) randomly assigned to an alcohol, placebo, or control condition. Blocked picture cues (negative, positive, neutral) were presented at a rate of 5 s on, 5 s off (i.e., 0.1-Hz frequency). SDNN, pNN50, and HF HRV were reduced by alcohol, compared to the placebo and control. The 0.1-Hz HRV index was diminished by alcohol and placebo, suggesting that autonomic regulation can be affected by cognitive expectancy. The 0.1-Hz HRV index and pNN50 detected changes in arousal during emotional compared to neutral cues, and the 0.1-Hz HRV index was most sensitive to negative valence. The 0.1-Hz HRV methodology may be useful for studying the intersection of cognition, emotion, and autonomic regulation.
Impaired neuropsychological test performance, especially on tests of executive function and attention, is often seen in children diagnosed with autism spectrum disorders (ASD). Structures involved in fronto-striatal circuitry, such as the caudate nucleus, may support these cognitive abilities. However, few studies have examined caudate volumes specifically in children with ASD, or correlated caudate volumes to cognitive ability.
Neuropsychological test scores and caudate volumes of children with ASD were compared to those of children with bipolar disorder (BD) and of typically developing (TD) children. The relationship between test performance and caudate volumes was analyzed.
The ASD group displayed larger right and left caudate volumes, and modest executive deficits, compared to TD controls. While caudate volume inversely predicted performance on the Wisconsin Card Sorting Test in all participants, it differentially predicted performance on measures of attention across the ASD, BD and TD groups.
Larger caudate volumes were related to impaired problem solving. On a test of attention, larger left caudate volumes predicted increased impulsivity and more omission errors in the ASD group as compared to the TD group, however smaller volume predicted poorer discriminant responding as compared to the BD group.
executive function; attention; bipolar disorder; autism spectrum disorders; caudate volume; neuroimaging
Mechanisms of behavioral change that support positive addiction treatment outcomes in individuals with co-occurring alcohol-use disorders and cognitive impairment remain largely unknown. This article combines person- and variable-centered approaches to examine the interrelated influence of cognitive impairment and social support on stability of and changes in drinking behaviors of Project MATCH (Matching Alcoholism Treatments to Client Heterogeneity) outpatients and aftercare clients (N= 1, 726) during the first year after their entry into treatment.
Latent class analysis identified homogeneous groups of clients based on the nature and extent of social support for abstinence or drinking at treatment entry. Cognitive impairment and drinking outcomes were compared across latent classes, and the interaction between impairment and social support on drinking outcomes was examined using mixture probit regression.
Three independent social support classes (frequent positive, limited positive, and negative) were identified. In the outpatient sample, the frequent positive support class had greater cognitive impairment at treatment entry versus other classes, and extent of impairment significantly predicted improved drinking outcomes in this class. In the aftercare sample, the frequent positive and negative support classes had heightened impairment, yet cognitive impairment significantly predicted relatively poorer drinking outcomes in the negative support class only.
Cognitive impairment may increase the influence of the social network on the drinking outcomes of persons receiving treatment for alcohol-use disorders, but more research is needed to understand client characteristics that determine whether this influence is more likely to be manifest as increased salience of helping agents or of hindering agents in the social network.
Model-based cluster analysis is a new clustering procedure to investigate population heterogeneity utilizing finite mixture multivariate normal densities. It is an inferentially based, statistically principled procedure that allows comparison of non-nested models using the Bayesian Information Criterion (BIC) to compare multiple models and identify the optimum number of clusters. The current study clustered 36 young men and women based on their baseline heart rate (HR) and HR variability (HRV), chronic alcohol use, and reasons for drinking. Two cluster groups were identified and labeled High Alcohol Risk and Normative groups. Compared to the Normative group, individuals in the High Alcohol Risk group had higher levels of alcohol use and more strongly endorsed disinhibition and suppression reasons for use. The High Alcohol Risk group showed significant HRV changes in response to positive and negative emotional and appetitive picture cues, compared to neutral cues. In contrast, the Normative group showed a significant HRV change only to negative cues. Findings suggest that the individuals with autonomic self-regulatory difficulties may be more susceptible to heavy alcohol use and use alcohol for emotional regulation.
Model-based Cluster Analysis; Mixture Model; Emotional Regulation; Heart Rate Variability (HRV); Alcohol Use