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Normal cognitive performance in patients with chronic alcoholism in contrast to patients with Korsakoff's syndrome

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44 J Neuropsychiatry Clin Neurosci 12:1, Winter 2000 Normal Cognitive Performance in Patients With Chronic Alcoholism in Contrast to Patients With Korsakoff’s Syndrome Lydia Krabbendam, M.A. Pieter Jelle Visser, M.D. Mayke M.A. Derix, Ph.D. Frans Verhey, M.D., Ph.D. Paul Hofman, M.D. Willem Verhoeven, M.D., Ph.D. Siegfried Tuinier, M.D., Ph.D. Jelle Jolles, Ph.D. Received November 24, 1998; revised May 20, 1999; accepted June 14, 1999. From the Maastricht Brain and Behavior Institute, Department of Psychiatry and Neuropsychology, Maastricht University and Psy- chomedical Center Vijverdal, Maastricht; Department of Radiology, University Hospital Maastricht; and Vincent van Gogh Institute for Mental Health, Venray, The Netherlands. Address correspondence to Dr. Krabbendam, Department of Neuropsychology, PMS Vijverdal, P.O. Box 88, 6200 AB, Maastricht, The Netherlands. Copyright q 2000 American Psychiatric Press, Inc. This study investigated which cognitive deficits are associated with chronic alcoholism. Neuropsy- chological profiles and MRI brain structure vol- umes of 14 patients with Korsakoff’s syndrome, 15 patients with chronic alcoholism, and 16 healthy control subjects were compared. The pa- tients with alcoholism had a normal cognitive per- formance and normal brain structure volumes. The patients with Korsakoff’s syndrome had per- formance deficits on tests of memory, visuopercep- tual, and executive functions, as well as reduced brain structure volumes. The results suggest that the cognitive deficits cannot be ascribed to mere chronic consumption of alcohol. If cognitive defi- cits are present in patients with chronic alcohol- ism, this may point to an underlying brain disorder. (The Journal of Neuropsychiatry and Clinical Neurosciences 2000; 12:44–50) Prolonged heavy alcohol consumption in combina-tion with severe thiamin deficiency may lead to Korsakoff ’s syndrome. Fundamental to this syndrome are profound anterograde and retrograde amnesia. Im- pairments of visuoperceptual and

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