A Dissociation Between Simple and Complex Span Impairment in Alcoholics
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We investigated whether the surprisingly good memory performance of alcoholics may result from simple memory performance being spared while performance in complex memory tasks is impaired. Simple word span was contrasted with a complex word span task involving concurrent monitoring and re-organisation of items for recall. To control for disruption of rehearsal in the complex word span task, performance on two additional tasks with disrupted rehearsal but no additional processing components was studied. As hypothesised, the alcoholics showed a deficit in the complex but not the simple word span task. They were also impaired, compared to controls, on both tasks with disrupted rehearsal. The difference between groups remained in the complex span task when scores in simple span and either of the two other tasks were used as covariates. Thus, both executive processes necessary for coping with disrupted rehearsal and additional processes scheduling processing and storage in a complex task may play a role in accounting for working memory deficits found in alcoholics.
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