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Arch Gen Psychiatry. 1999 Jan;56(1):85-9.

Declarative and procedural memory functioning in abstinent cocaine abusers.

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  • 1Department of Psychiatry, Cornell University Medical College, New York, NY 10021, USA.



We determined the nature and recovery of procedural and declarative memory functioning in a cocaine-abusing cohort in the 45-day period following use.


Thirty-seven cocaine abusers and 27 control subjects were administered the following memory and mood measures: California Verbal Learning Test, recall of the Rey-Osterrieth Complex Figure Test, Pursuit Rotor Task, and Profile of Mood States at 4 visits (within 72 hours of admission and at 10, 21, and 45 days following abstinence).


Analysis of performance on the Rey-Osterrieth Complex Figure Test revealed that both groups improved in their recall over repeated administrations, though the control group recalled significantly more of the information than cocaine subjects during the 45-day interval. Results for the California Verbal Learning Test indicated improved learning for both subject groups over time, but no group x time interaction. On the Pursuit Rotor Task, cocaine abusers improved their performance at a faster rate than controls at visit 1. At day 45 (visit 4), cocaine abusers again showed improvement on the Pursuit Rotor Task, whereas controls demonstrated a relative plateau in rate of learning.


This study documented a lasting detrimental effect on a sensitive nonverbal declarative memory task in cocaine-dependent subjects following abstinence of 45 days. In contrast, abstinence from cocaine during this 45-day period was associated with sustained improvement on a motor learning test in the cocaine abusers relative to controls.

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