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Cognitive Problems Occur More Rapidly in Female Alcoholics Than in Males

It is a known fact that alcohol abuse and/or dependence can lead to severe and potentially irreversible brain damage. //It is also known that women, more than men, is severely affected by chronic alcohol abuse within a shorter period of drinking and with less overall consumption. A new study shows that female alcoholics may also sustain greater cognitive damage than male alcoholics.

"The term ‘telescoping’ generally refers to the fact that women experience the negative physiological consequences of alcohol abuse/dependence earlier in their drinking careers and with less alcohol consumption than do men," explained Barbara A. Flannery, senior scientist at RTI International and corresponding author for the study. "For example, women have greater liver, heart and other cardiovascular consequences than do men."

"Despite our knowledge of alcohol’s deleterious effects on the brain," said James C. Garbutt, professor of psychiatry and research scientist at Bowles Center for Alcohol Studies, University of North Carolina, "the more subtle effects of alcohol on cognitive function and brain structure have been more challenging to assess. However, with the advent of increasingly powerful neuroimaging techniques, changes in brain structure and function can be detected in patients early in the course of alcoholism. Furthermore, neuropsychological measures can be utilized in an attempt to correlate decrements in performance with brain pathology. Together, these techniques are opening up a new perspective on alcoholism, with implications for treatment. For example, it is becoming clear that anatomical and functional changes occur before the development of overt dementia."

For this study, researchers compared the performance of four groups – Russian male (n=78) and female (n=24) alcoholics, and non-alcoholic control subjects (n=68) – on a series of neurocognitive tasks: motor speed, visuoperceptual processing, visuospatial processing, decision-m
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