The term ‘decision making’ indicates the aspects of executive functions related to the ability to modulate the reward and punishment perception, in order to operate advantageous choices.
Subjects with alcoholism exhibit poor decision making and high level of impulsivity.
This study assesses the relationship between decision making ability, as measured by Iowa Gambling Task (IGT), and impulsivity and others temperamental and character traits in a long-term abstinent alcohol dependent sample.
30 abstinent alcohol dependent subjects, referred to Drug Addiction Unit of National Health Service of L'Aquila were assessed using IGT, the Barratt Impulsiveness Scale 11-item version (BIS-11) and the Temperament and Character Inventory - 125 items (TCI-125). The mean age was 44.53 (8.66 SD) years and educational level was 9.03 years (2.52).
15 control subjects were recruited from general population and assessed with IGT only (age 41.38±11.10; educational level 12.23±3.44).
The clinical and the control samples significantly differ in their performance on the IGT, the former making disadvantageous choices in the task leading to lower scores. We found only a significant correlation between IGT total score and the BIS factor Non-Planning Impulsivity.
The alcoholic subjects, although in a abstinent status, show difficulties to learn the task strategies and/or earn from experience to orient toward an advantageous choice pattern, supporting the hypothesis of a decision making impairment.
The lack of correlation with impulsivity factors and personality traits supports the results of other studies concluding that, at dimensional level, decision making abilities may be a distinct construct.