Neuropsychological executive functioning in children at elevated risk for alcoholism: findings in early adolescence.

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One component of individual risk for alcoholism may involve cognitive vulnerabilities prodromal to alcoholism onset. This prospective study of 198 boys followed between 3 and 14 years of age evaluated neurocognitive functioning across three groups who varied in familial risk for future alcoholism. Measures of intelligence, reward-response, and a battery of neuropsychological executive and cognitive inhibitory measures were used. Executive functioning weaknesses were greater in families with alcoholism but no antisocial comorbidity. IQ and reward-response weaknesses were associated with familial antisocial alcoholism. Executive function effects were clearest for response inhibition, response speed, and symbol-digit modalities. Results suggest that executive deficits are not part of the highest risk, antisocial pathway to alcoholism but that some executive function weaknesses may contribute to a secondary risk pathway.

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