Objectives: Neuropsychological assessment of memory disorders is an important prerequisite in the treatment of patients with alcohol-related cognitive disorders. Although many memory tests are available in clinical practice, a question remains regarding which test is most appropriate for this purpose. Our study's goal was to evaluate the discriminative power of indices of a standard memory test (the California Verbal Learning Test; CVLT) versus the subtests of an ecologically valid everyday memory test (the Rivermead Behavioural Memory Test; RBMT) in patients with alcohol-use disorder.
Method: The patients included 136 with Korsakoff's syndrome (KS), 73 alcoholics with cognitive impairment (CI) not fulfilling the criteria for KS, and 24 cognitively unimpaired alcoholics (ALC).
Results: KS patients performed significantly lower on all RBMT and CVLT variables than CI patients. ALC patients performed significantly better than CI patients on only one RBMT subtest, and had a significantly lower rate of forgetting and higher scores on free recall on CVLT. A combination of RBMT subtests and CVLT indices was able to discriminate KS patients from CI and ALC patients. The RBMT subtests could not significantly distinguish ALC from CI patients. Both rate of forgetting and a comparison between free and cued recall testing on the CVLT showed the largest between-group differences.
Conclusion: Although the RBMT provides information about everyday memory performance, the CVLT indices are better able to distinguish between uncomplicated alcoholics and those with cognitive impairment or KS.