Ecological assessment of executive functions in substance dependent individuals

Antonio Verdejo-García, Miguel Pérez-García

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Substance dependence is associated with executive function deficits. However, most available studies have examined the performance of substance dependent individuals (SDI) on traditional laboratory measures of executive functions, whereas few studies have used ecologically valid assessments with SDI. Our aim was to examine the performance of 37 SDI (poly-substance users) and 37 matched controls on an ecologically valid measure of executive function (the Behavioural Assessment of the Dysexecutive Syndrome - BADS). We also administered the Wisconsin Card Sorting Test (WCST) to investigate whether ecological measures were more discriminative than traditional tests in detecting SDI deficits. A related aim was to examine the ability of the BADS (and the WCST) to predict everyday executive problems. Results showed that SDI had widespread deficits on ecological measures of executive function. Conversely, we found no differences between groups on the WCST. Furthermore, the BADS (but not the WCST) predicted everyday problems related to apathy, disinhibition, and executive dysfunction.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)48-55
Number of pages8
JournalDrug and Alcohol Dependence
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 6 Sep 2007
Externally publishedYes


  • Abstinence
  • Ecological validity
  • Effect size
  • Everyday functioning
  • Executive functions
  • Neuropsychological tests
  • Poly-substance abuse
  • Treatment

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