Dual Tasking and Working Memory in Alcoholism: Relation to Frontocerebellar Circuitry


Chanraud, S., Pitel, AL., Rohlfing, T. et al. Dual Tasking and Working Memory in Alcoholism: Relation to Frontocerebellar Circuitry. Neuropsychopharmacol 35, 1868–1878 (2010). https://doi.org/10.1038/npp.2010.56


Controversy exists regarding the role of cerebellar systems in cognition and whether working memory compromise commonly marking alcoholism can be explained by compromise of nodes of corticocerebellar circuitry. We tested 17 alcoholics and 31 age-matched controls with dual-task, working memory paradigms. Interference tasks competed with verbal and spatial working memory tasks using low (three item) or high (six item) memory loads. Participants also underwent structural MRI to obtain volumes of nodes of the frontocerebellar system. On the verbal working memory task, both groups performed equally. On the spatial working memory with the high-load task, the alcoholic group was disproportionately more affected by the arithmetic distractor than were controls. In alcoholics, volumes of the left thalamus and left cerebellar Crus I volumes were more robust predictors of performance in the spatial working memory task with the arithmetic distractor than the left frontal superior cortex. In controls, volumes of the right middle frontal gyrus and right cerebellar Crus I were independent predictors over the left cerebellar Crus I, left thalamus, right superior parietal cortex, or left middle frontal gyrus of spatial working memory performance with tracking interference. The brain–behavior correlations suggest that alcoholics and controls relied on the integrity of certain nodes of corticocerebellar systems to perform these verbal and spatial working memory tasks, but that the specific pattern of relationships differed by group. The resulting brain structure–function patterns provide correlational support that components of this corticocerebellar system not typically related to normal performance in dual-task conditions may be available to augment otherwise dampened performance by alcoholics.

Keywords: brain, alcoholism, MRI, cerebellum, frontal cortex, working memory

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