The specific neurochemical substrate underlying the amnesia in patients with Wernicke-Korsakoff syndrome (WKS) is still poorly defined. Memory impairment has been linked to dysfunction of neurons in the cholinergic system. A transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) protocol, the short latency afferent inhibition (SAI), may give direct information about the function of some cholinergic pathways in the human motor cortex. In the present study, we measured SAI in eight alcoholics with WKS and compared the data with those from a group of age-matched healthy individuals; furthermore, we correlated the individual SAI values of the WKS patients with memory and other cognitive functions. Mean SAI was significantly reduced in WKS patients when compared with the controls. SAI was increased after administration of a single dose of donezepil in a subgroup of four patients. The low score obtained in the Rey Complex Figure delayed recall test, the Digit Span subtest of the Wechsler Adult Intelligence Scale-Revised (WAIS-R) and the Corsixxxs Block Span subtest of the WAIS-R documented a severe impairment in the anterograde memory and short-term memory. None of the correlations between SAI values and these neuropsychological tests reached significance. We provide physiological evidence of cholinergic involvement in WKS. However, this putative marker of central cholinergic activity did not significantly correlate with the memory deficit in our patients. These findings suggest that the cholinergic dysfunction does not account for the memory disorder and that damage to the cholinergic system is not sufficient to cause a persisting amnesic syndrome in WKS.
Useful keywords (using NLM MeSH Indexing)
Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation/methods
Find related publications in this database (Keywords)Wernicke-Korsakoff syndrome