Effects of chronic alcoholism on hemispheric functioning: an examination of gender differences for cognitive and dichotic listening tasks

Journal of Clinical and Experimental Neuropsychology
A I DrakeJ Gam


A pattern of intact verbal abilities and impaired visuospatial abilities has led to a hypothesis of alcohol-induced right-hemisphere dysfunction in male chronic alcoholics. The applicability of this hypothesis to chronic female alcoholics was examined by administering the WAIS-R, Stark Paired Associates Tasks, and dichotic listening tasks to 15 male and 10 female alcoholics and 15 male and 10 female controls of similar age and education. Alcoholics had significantly lower Full Scale IQ scores on the WAIS-R but neither sex had a Verbal-Performance IQ difference indicative of right-hemisphere dysfunction. Male alcoholics showed deficits on both the Verbal and Visuospatial Stark Tasks, the deficit being greater on the Visuospatial Task. Male alcoholics showed an increased right-ear superiority on the verbal dichotic listening task and a decreased left-ear superiority on the musical dichotic listening task, both indicative of right-hemisphere dysfunction. The results, except for the WAIS-R, support the hypothesis that male but not female chronic alcoholics exhibit right-hemisphere dysfunction. Females, alcoholic or not, appear to be less lateralized in function.


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