Alcohol Abuse and Neuropsychological Tests

This study, which was presented at the 18th Annual National Academy of Neuropsychology Conference, examined the effects of chronic alcohol abuse on test scores of neuropsychological tests in patients who experiences a traumatic brain injury (TBI). The researchers compared the results of the tests between two groups: those with and those without a history of chronic alcoholism.

They found the TBI patients with a history of alcoholism had difficulty on the tests that measured higher level brain functioning—such as verbal fluency and categorization. The authors conclude:

"The findings lend support to the hypothesis that pre-existing executive system deficits exist in the chronic alcoholic and that poorer performance is related to the additive effect of chronic [alcohol] use and sustained brain injury."

Professionals who work with TBI patients need to take a careful history, to be aware of the history of alcoholism, as such a history can dramatically influence the results on neuropsychological exams.

Kreuch, TJ, Falcon P, Gabel B, Hudson D. Effects of chronic alchohol abuse on neuropsychological test performance in individuals with traumatic brain injury. Archives of Clinical Neuropsychology 1999;14(1): 34.