Dynamics of the Cognitive Procedural Learning in Alcoholics with Korsakoff's Syndrome
Article first published online: 27 DEC 2012
Copyright © 2012 by the Research Society on Alcoholism
Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research
Volume 37, Issue 6, pages 1025–1032, June 2013
How to Cite
Beaunieux, H., Pitel, A. L., Witkowski, T., Vabret, F., Viader, F. and Eustache, F. (2013), Dynamics of the Cognitive Procedural Learning in Alcoholics with Korsakoff's Syndrome. Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research, 37: 1025–1032. doi: 10.1111/acer.12054
- Issue published online: 28 MAY 2013
- Article first published online: 27 DEC 2012
- Manuscript Accepted: 2 OCT 2012
- Manuscript Received: 23 MAY 2012
- Institut de la Santé et de la Recherche Médicale (Inserm). Grant Number: RBM 03-14
- Procedural Memory;
- Cognitive Skill;
- Korsakoff's Syndrome;
- Episodic Memory;
- Working Memory
While procedures acquired before the development of amnesia are likely to be preserved in alcoholic patients with Korsakoff's syndrome, the ability of Korsakoff patients (KS) to learn new cognitive procedures is called in question. According to the Adaptive Control of Thoughts model, learning a new cognitive procedure requires highly controlled processes in the initial cognitive phase, which may be difficult for KS with episodic and working memory deficits. The goals of the present study were to examine the learning dynamics of KS compared with uncomplicated alcoholic patients (AL) and control subjects (CS) and to determine the contribution of episodic and working memory abilities in cognitive procedural learning performance.
Fourteen KS, 15 AL, and 15 CS were submitted to 40 trials (4 daily learning sessions) of the Tower of Toronto task (disk-transfer task similar to the tower of Hanoi task) as well as episodic and working memory tasks.
The 10 KS who were able to perform the cognitive procedural learning task obtained lower results than both CS and AL. The cognitive phase was longer in the Korsakoff's syndrome group than in the other 2 groups but did not differ between the 3 groups any more when episodic memory abilities were controlled.
Our results indicate that KS have impaired cognitive procedural learning abilities compared with both AL and CS. Episodic memory deficits observed in KS result in a delayed transition from the cognitive learning phase to more advanced learning phases and, as a consequence, in an absence of automation of the procedure within 40 trials.