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Alcohol Clin Exp Res. 2006 Aug;30(8):1355-62.

Executive function and memory in relation to olfactory deficits in alcohol-dependent patients.

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  • 1Department of Psychiatry, Innsbruck Medical University, Innsbruck, Austria.



Prior research indicates that chronic alcoholism is accompanied by olfactory deficits. These have been suggested to reflect dysfunctions in olfactory brain regions. The present study investigated the role of neurocognitive functioning in tests (executive function and memory) sensitive to the functional integrity of brain areas that are crucial to olfactory processing in patients with alcohol dependence.


Performance on olfactory functions (detection threshold, quality discrimination, identification), executive function (Wisconsin Card Sorting Test), and memory (German version of the California Verbal Learning Test) was assessed in 32 alcohol-dependent patients and 30 healthy comparison subjects, comparable in age, gender, and smoking status.


Compared with controls, alcohol-dependent patients were impaired in all 3 domains, olfactory functions, executive function, and memory. In patients, olfactory discrimination ability was positively correlated with executive function performance. Regression analyses conducted to clarify the relation between group (patients vs controls), executive function, memory, and olfactory functions indicated that group was the only significant predictor of olfactory detection threshold and identification, and both group and executive function were found to be the significant predictors of olfactory discrimination.


Olfactory deficits in alcohol dependence appear to be associated with prefrontal cognitive dysfunction. Results indicate that olfactory quality discrimination deficits are related to executive function impairment. These findings add to the available research on frontal lobe dysfunction in alcoholism, suggesting that alcohol-related olfactory discrimination deficits may be associated with impairment in the functional integrity of the prefrontal lobe.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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