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Cognitive functioning in Wernicke’s encephalopathy following chronic alcoholism

Sarada Prasanna Swain, Sushree Sangita Behura.


Background: Wernicke’s encephalopathy (WE) is an acute neuropsychiatric syndrome caused by a deficiency of thiamine (Vitamin B1) in chronic alcoholics. In chronic alcoholics, there is always deficiency of thiamine because of an inadequate supply of thiamine and neurotoxic effect of alcohol. The thiamine deficiency in the neuronal cells of the brain usually results in cognitive dysfunctions in chronic alcoholics.

Objectives: To assess the memory functioning, intelligence, spatial ability, and visuomotor coordination in patients with WE following chronic alcoholism.

Materials and Methods: This study was conducted in the Deaddiction Centre of Mental Health Institute (COE), S.C.B. Medical College and in another Deaddiction Centre of Cuttack. A total number of 34 cases, among 70 cases of chronic alcoholics, had symptoms of WE (global confusion, unsteady gait, and ophthalmologic signs) during admission and were finally selected for the study. The study was conducted from July 2014 to 2016. PGI-battery of brain dysfunction was administered to assess cognitive functioning of these patients, after 1-2 months of the admission in the Deaddiction Centre.

Results: Findings suggested dysfunctions in attention-concentration, recent memory, mental balance, immediate recall, delayed recall, visual retention, recognition, abstract reasoning, planning, visual acuity, depth perception, and visuomotor coordination domains of neurocognitive functioning.

Conclusion: It is highly essential to take into account the cognitive dimensions of chronic alcoholics before preparing their treatment plan in the long-term management while the patients are in the rehabilitation phase or in the domiciliary treatment and palliate their difficulties in activities of daily living.

Key words: Wernicke’s Encephalopathy; Vitamin B1 (Thiamine); Cognitive Dysfunction; Memory

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