Frontal dysfunction in neurologically normal chronic alcoholic subjects: metabolic and neuropsychological findings
Background. Neuropsychological and imaging studies suggest that frontal dysfunction may occur in apparently normal chronic alcoholic subjects.
Methods. To investigate this issue further, we performed neuropsychological and fluorodeoxy-glucose-PET studies in 17 chronic alcoholics without patent neurological and psychiatric complications.
Results. Metabolic abnormalities were found in the mediofrontal and in the left dorsolateral prefrontal cortex, but not in the orbitofrontal cortex. Neuropsychological testing revealed significantly reduced verbal fluency and impaired performance on the Stroop test. The mediofrontal hypometabolism correlated with the reduction in verbal fluency and the time necessary to perform the interference condition of the Stroop test. The left dorsolateral prefrontal hypometabolism correlated with the number of errors on the Stroop test.
Conclusion. These data indicate that circumscribed frontal dysfunctions may occur in chronic alcoholic subjects before clinically obvious neurological complications, and may account for some of the alcohol-related neuropsychological and behavioural impairments.
c1 Address for correspondence: Dr M. H. Dao-Castellana, INSERM U334, Service Hospitalier Frédéric Joliot CEA, Hôpital d'Orsay, F-91406, Orsay, France.