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Categorization Abilities for Emotional and Nonemotional Stimuli in Patients With Alcohol-related Korsakoff Syndrome

Labudda, Kirsten PhD* †; von Rothkirch, Nadine MSc*; Pawlikowski, Mirko MSc; Laier, Christian MSc*; Brand, Matthias PhD‡ §

Cognitive and Behavioral Neurology: June 2010 - Volume 23 - Issue 2 - p 89-97
doi: 10.1097/WNN.0b013e3181d83aa4
Original Studies

Objective To investigate whether patients with alcohol-related Korsakoff syndrome (KR) have emotion-specific or general deficits in multicategoric classification performance.

Background Earlier studies have shown reduced performance in classifying stimuli according to their emotional valence in patients with KS. However, it is unclear whether such classification deficits are of emotion-specific nature or whether they can also occur when nonemotional classifications are demanded.

Method In this study, we examined 35 patients with alcoholic KS and 35 healthy participants with the Emotional Picture Task (EPT) to assess valence classification performance, the Semantic Classification Task (SCT) to assess nonemotional categorizations, and an extensive neuropsychologic test battery.

Results KS patients exhibited lower classification performance in both tasks compared with the healthy participants. EPT and SCT performance were related to each other. EPT and SCT performance correlated with general knowledge and EPT performance in addition with executive functions.

Conclusions Our results indicate a common underlying mechanism of the patients' reductions in emotional and nonemotional classification performance. These deficits are most probably based on problems in retrieving object and category knowledge and, partially, on executive functioning.

*Department of Physiological Psychology, University of Bielefeld

Mara Hospital, Bethel Epilepsy Center, MRI Unit, Bielefeld

General Psychology: Cognition, University of Duisburg-Essen

§Erwin L. Hahn Institute for Magnetic Resonance Imaging, Essen, Germany

Funding disclosure: This work was supported by the German Research Foundation (BR 2894/1-1 and BR 2894/4-1).

Reprints: Kirsten Labudda, PhD, Department of Physiological Psychology, University of Bielefeld, PO Box 100131, 33501 Bielefeld, Germany (e-mail:

Received for publication August 25, 2009; accepted February 7, 2010

© 2010 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.