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Contributions to Understanding the Neuropsychology of Alcoholism: An INS Legacy

  • Edith V. Sullivan (a1)


Alcohol use disorder (AUD) has been a major cause of family, social, and personal strife for centuries, with current prevalence estimates of 14% for 12-month and 29% lifetime AUD. Neuropsychological testing of selective cognitive, sensory, and motor functions complemented with in vivo brain imaging has enabled tracking the consequences of AUD, which follows a dynamic course of development, maintenance, and recovery or relapse. Controlled studies of alcoholism reviewed herein provide evidence for disruption of selective functions involving executive, visuospatial, mnemonic, emotional, and attentional processes, response inhibition, prosody, and postural stability and brain systems supporting these functions. On a hopeful front, longitudinal study provides convincing evidence for improvement in brain structure and function following sustained sobriety. These discoveries have a strong legacy in the International Neuropsychological Society (INS), starting from its early days when assumptions regarding which brain regions were disrupted relied solely on patterns of functional sparing and impairment deduced from testing. This review is based on the symposium presentation delivered at the 2017 annual North American meeting of the INS in celebration of the 50th anniversary since its institution in 1967. In the spirit of the meeting’s theme, “Binding the Past and Present,” the lecture and this review recognized the past by focusing on early, rigorous neuropsychological studies of alcoholism and their influence on research currently conducted using imaging methods enabling hypothesis testing of brain substrates of observed functional deficits. (JINS, 2017, 23, 843–859)


Corresponding author

Correspondence and reprint requests to: Edith, V., Sullivan, Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, Stanford University School of Medicine (MC5723), 401 Quarry Road, Stanford, CA 94305-5723. E-mail:


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Contributions to Understanding the Neuropsychology of Alcoholism: An INS Legacy

  • Edith V. Sullivan (a1)


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