The effect of moderate to heavy alcohol consumption on neuropsychological performance as measured by the repeatable battery for the assessment of neuropsychological status
Green, A.; Garrick, T.; Sheedy, D.; Blake, H.; Shores, E.A.; Harper, C.
Alcoholism Clinical and Experimental Research 34(3): 443-450
ISSN/ISBN: 1530-0277 PMID: 20028356 DOI: 10.1111/j.1530-0277.2009.01108.x
Excessive alcohol use is associated with damage to the structure and function of the brain and impairment of cognition and behavior. Traditional test batteries used to assess cognitive performance in alcoholics are extensive and costly, limiting their use across various clinical and research settings. The Repeatable Battery for the Assessment of Neuropsychological Status (RBANS) is a relatively new instrument that attempts to overcome some of these limitations. As yet the individual effect of moderate to heavy alcohol consumption on RBANS performance has not been examined. The primary aim of this study was to explore and quantify differences in performance between controls and drinkers on the RBANS and to examine the influence of age, gender, and alcohol use patterns on test performance. Data from a subset of "Using Our Brains" (UoB) donors (n = 28) still actively drinking and meeting criteria for moderate to heavy alcohol use (30 to 80 g of ethanol per day) (Harper, 1988) and 28 matched controls (age, education, and premorbid Intelligence Quotient) were compared. Participants in the alcohol group performed below the healthy control group on the visuospatial and immediate memory index, and also on the RBANS total score p < 0.001 and showed a greater decline in RBANS scores from estimated cross-sectional premorbid levels. There was a positive association between alcohol ingestion in the preceding 12 months and the language index p < 0.03 and the semantic fluency subtest (p < 0.03). Age was negatively associated with story memory (p < 0.02), coding (p < 0.001), list recognition (p < 0.01), story recall (p < 0.03), and figure recall (p < 0.02). Our results suggest that the RBANS is able to detect and characterize differences in verbal fluency, visuospatial skills, components of declarative memory, and psychomotor speed between healthy controls and moderate to heavy active alcohol users. Executive functions, commonly affected by alcoholism and not included in the RBANS, require assessment with additional measures.