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Eur Psychiatry. 2009 Apr;24(3):195-200. doi: 10.1016/j.eurpsy.2008.12.003. Epub 2009 Feb 4.

A case-comparison study of executive functions in alcohol-dependent adults with maternal history of alcoholism.

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Department of Addictology, University of Lille 2, Faculty of Medicine, University Hospital of Lille, 57 Bd de Metz, 59037 Lille Cedex, France.



As executive dysfunctions frequently accompany alcohol dependence, we suggest that reports of executive dysfunction in alcoholics are actually due, in some case to a maternal history of alcohol misuse (MHA+). A history of maternal alcohol dependence increases the risk for prenatal alcohol exposure to unborn children. These exposures likely contribute to executive dysfunction in adult alcoholics. To assess this problem, we propose a case-comparison study of alcohol-dependent subjects with and without a MHA.


Ten alcohol-dependent subjects, with a maternal history of alcoholism (MHA) and paternal history of alcoholism (PHA), were matched with 10 alcohol-dependent people with only a paternal history of alcoholism (PHA). Executive functions (cancellation, Stroop, and trail-making A and B tests) and the presence of a history of three mental disorders (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, violent behavior while intoxicated, and suicidal behavior) were evaluated in both populations.


Alcohol-dependent subjects with MHA showed a significant alteration in executive functions and significantly more disorders related to these functions than PHA subjects. The major measures of executive functioning deficit are duration on task accomplishment in all tests. Rates of ADHD and suicidality were found to be higher in MHA patients compared to the controls.


A history of MHA, because of the high risk of PAE (in spite of the potential confounding factors such as environment) must be scrupulously documented when evaluating mental and cognitive disorders in a general population of alcoholics to ensure a better identification of these disorders. It would be helpful to replicate the study with more subjects.

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