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Self-rated prospective memory and central executive deficits in excessive alcohol users

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  13 June 2014

Thomas Heffernan
Division of Psychology, Northumbria University, Newcastle-upon-Tyne, NE1 8ST, England
Jonathon Ling
Psychology Section, University of Teeside, Middlesbrough
Janice Bartholomew
Division of Psychology, Northumbria University, Newcastle-upon-Tyne, NE1 8ST, England


Objectives: This study assessed self-reported prospective memory and related central executive processes in a group of excessive alcohol users and non-users. The aim was to assess whether excessive alcohol use is associated with impairments in these two sets of memory processes.

Methods: Eighty participants from the North-East of England were tested. Of these, 40 were excessive alcohol users (using above the recommended weekly ‘safe’ dose of alcohol) and 40 were low-dose/non-users. Each participant was assessed using self-reports of prospective memory (PM) – measured using the Prospective Memory Questionnaire (PMQ) and central executive (CE) processes – measured using the Dysexecutive Questionnaire (DEX). Other drug use, age and strategy use were incorporated into the study as controls.

Results: After controlling for other drug use, age, and strategy use, excessive alcohol users reported global impairments in everyday prospective memory and in their central executive processes, when compared to a low-dose/no-alcohol control group.

Conclusions: These findings suggest that excessive alcohol use has a detrimental impact upon everyday memory – a relatively unexplored area of research. PM and CE deficits should be added to the growing list of neuropsychological sequelae associated with chronic excessive alcohol use.

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Copyright © Cambridge University Press 2004

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