The present study was aimed at examining spatial learning and memory, in 33 men and 12 women with alcohol use disorder (AUD) undergoing ethanol detoxification, by using a virtual Morris task. As controls, we recruited 29 men and 10 women among episodic drinkers without a history of alcohol addiction or alcohol-related diseases. Elevated latency to the first movement in all trials was observed only in AUD persons; furthermore, control women had longer latencies compared with control men. Increased time spent to reach the hidden platform in the learning phase was found for women of both groups compared with men, in particular during trial 3. As predicted, AUD persons (more evident in men) spent less time in the target quadrant during the probe trial; however, AUD women had longer latencies to reach the platform in the visible condition during trials 6 and 7 that resulted in a greater distance moved. As for the probe trial, men of both groups showed increased virtual locomotion compared with the women of both groups. The present investigation confirms and extends previous studies showing (i) different gender responses in spatial learning tasks, (ii) some alterations due to alcohol addiction in virtual spatial learning, and (iii) differences between AUD men and AUD women in spatial-behaviour-related paradigms.
- Journal Article