4. Heavy drinking may impair cognitive function in elderly
Scientists have found that heavy drinking in older adults may impair cognitive function, learning, memory and motor function in older adults.
Heavy drinking can lead to neurophysiological and cognitive changes ranging from disrupted sleep to more serious neurotoxic effects. Ageing can also contribute to cognitive decline. Several studies on the interaction of current heavy drinking and ageing have had varied results. A new study at Brown University in the US sought to elucidate the relations among age, heavy drinking, and neurocognitive function. Researchers recruited 66 participants (35 women, 31 men), who underwent a comprehensive neurocognitive battery of testing. As many as 21 participants were classified at current heavy drinkers and were compared to 45 non-drinkers and moderate drinkers. About 53 per cent of the total population had a lifetime history of alcohol dependence (AD). Neurocognitive data were grouped according to global cognitive function, attention/executive function, learning, memory, motor function, verbal function and speed of processing. Results showed that current heavy drinking in older adults was associated with poorer global cognitive function, learning, memory, and motor function. Furthermore, a lifetime history of AD was associated with poorer function in the same neurocognitive domains, as well as the attention/executive domain, notwithstanding age. Although current heavy drinking is associated with significant impairment in a number of neurocognitive domains, it appears that a history of AD is associated with lasting negative consequences for neurocognitive function, researchers said.