The mean and the individual: Integrating variable-centered and person-centered analyses of cognitive recovery in patients with substance use disorders

Marsha E. Bates, Jennifer F. Buckman, Gerald T. Voelbel, David Eddie, Jason Freeman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Neuropsychological and cognitive deficits are observed in the majority of persons with alcohol and drug use disorders and may interfere with treatment processes and outcomes. Although, on average, the brain and cognition improve with abstinence or markedly reduced substance use, better understanding of the heterogeneity in the time-course and extent of cognitive recovery at the individual level is useful to promote bench-to-bedside translation and inform clinical decision making. This study integrated a variable-centered and a person-centered approach to characterize diversity in cognitive recovery in 197 patients in treatment for a substance use disorder. We assessed executive function, verbal ability, memory, and complex information processing speed at treatment entry, and then 6, 26, and 52 weeks later. Structural equation modeling was used to define underlying ability constructs and determine the mean level of cognitive changes in the sample while minimizing measurement error and practice effects on specific tests. Individual-level empirical growth plots of latent factor scores were used to explore prototypical trajectories of cognitive change. At the level of the mean, small to medium effect size gains in cognitive abilities were observed over 1 year. At the level of the individual, the mean trajectory of change was also the modal individual recovery trajectory shown by about half the sample. Other prototypical cognitive change trajectories observed in all four cognitive domains included Delayed Gain, Loss of Gain, and Continuous Gain. Together these trajectories encompassed between 86 and 94% of individual growth plots across the four latent abilities. Further research is needed to replicate and predict trajectory membership. Replication of the present findings would have useful implications for targeted treatment planning and the new cognitive interventions being developed to enhance treatment outcomes.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numberArticle 177
JournalFrontiers in Psychiatry
Issue numberDEC
StatePublished - 2013


  • Alcohol use disorders
  • Cognitive recovery
  • Longitudinal
  • Neuropsychological impairment
  • Person-centered
  • Substance use disorders
  • Treatment programs
  • Variable-centered
  • alcohol and drug use
  • alcohol and drug use disorders

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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