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A Role for Cognitive Rehabilitation in Increasing the Effectiveness of Treatment for Alcohol Use Disorders

Abstract

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.

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Acknowledgments

This review was supported in part by the National Institute of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism through HHSN275201000003C, R01 AA015248, ARRA Administrative Supplement to R01 AA015248, K02 AA00325, and K01 AA017473.

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Bates, M.E., Buckman, J.F. & Nguyen, T.T. A Role for Cognitive Rehabilitation in Increasing the Effectiveness of Treatment for Alcohol Use Disorders. Neuropsychol Rev 23, 27–47 (2013). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11065-013-9228-3

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Keywords

  • Alcoholism
  • Cognitive impairment
  • Brain damage
  • Cognitive recovery
  • Cognitive enhancement
  • Cognitive training