The Battery for Executive Functions in Addiction: Validation of a Novel Screening Tool

Michela Balconi, Doriana Losasso, Alessandra Balena, Davide Crivelli*

*Corresponding author

Research output: Contribution to journalConference articlepeer-review


Objective: Executive functions (EF) are a primary mediator of both typical and atypical functioning, influencing the progression of psychopathology due to their role in supporting self-monitoring/regulation and top-down control of cognitive processes. According to recent models, EF impairments may contribute to the functional decline of patients with substance use disorder (SUD), exacerbating secondary affective and social symptoms. Despite these potential implications, the tools now commonly used to outline neurocognitive, and specifically EF, impairments in patients with addiction are not tailored to this clinical population, having been developed to assess cognitive or dysexecutive deficits in neurology or geriatric patients. Because of their different clinical focus, such tools are frequently unable to fully delineate the dysfunctional EF profile of addiction patients. We here present the development and validation of a novel specific screening battery for executive disorders in addiction: Battery for Executive Functions in Addiction (BFE-A). Participants and Methods: 151 SUD patients and 55 control persons were recruited for the validation of the BFE-A battery. The battery consists of two computerized neurocognitive tasks (Stroop and Go/No-go tasks) and five digitalized neuropsychological tests (focus: short/long-term memory, working memory, focused attention, verbal/non-verbal cognitive flexibility). The tests are designed to assess executive control, inhibition mechanisms, and attention bias toward drugs of abuse. Results: In tests of verbal memory, focused attention, and cognitive flexibility, as well as in computerized tasks, inferential statistical analyses revealed lower performance in SUD patients compared to control participants, indicating a lack of inhibitory processes and dysfunctional management of cognitive resources. The investigation of Cohen’s d values has revealed that inhibitory control, verbal/nonverbal fluency, and short/long-term memory are the areas with the most significant impairments. Conclusions: While the evaluation of EF dysfunctions associated to addiction is a currently underrepresented component of the diagnostic procedure in drug assistance/treatment programs, is also is an essential step for both profiling of patients and design of rehabilitation protocols. Clinical interviews should be complemented by early assessment of cognitive weaknesses and preserved EF skills in order to establishing personalized therapy strategy and perhaps organizing a concurrent phase of cognitive rehabilitation.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)800-801
Number of pages2
JournalJournal of the International Neuropsychological Society
Publication statusPublished - 2023
Event2023 Annual Meeting International Neuropsychological Society - San Diego
Duration: 1 Feb 20234 Feb 2023


  • addiction
  • dependence
  • assessment
  • test development


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