Pharmacological compounds targeting emotional cognition in alcohol use disorder: A systematic review

Nicolaj Mistarz*, Kjeld Andersen, Anette Søgaard Nielsen, Anneke E. Goudriaan, Tanja Maria Michel, Lotte Skøt, Simon Jesper Anhøj, Angelina Isabella Mellentin

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review


Non-emotional (e.g., executive functions) and emotional cognitive (e.g., facial emotion recognition) impairments are a well-known aspect of alcohol use disorder (AUD). These deficits may impede on treatment outcomes, increase the risk of relapse, and lead to socio-occupational disabilities. Previous systematic reviews have examined the effectiveness of cognitive enhancing pharmacological agents (CEPAs) targeting non-emotional, but not emotional, cognition in AUD. Our aim was to systematically review the effectiveness of CEPAs targeting emotional cognition in subclinical and clinical AUD populations. A qualitative synthesis of controlled trials was conducted, and the studies were assessed for risk of bias. Eight studies were eligible (15 ≤ ns ≤ 143), and they all had a moderate risk of bias. Modafinil and nalmefene were the most examined agents, with the findings suggesting a potential beneficial effect of the agents on implicit emotional domains (i.e., reward processing). Methodological shortcomings and heterogeneous findings across the studies do not allow inferences about the effectiveness of these compounds in AUD. Future studies should examine CEPAs targeting emotional cognition in more detail.

Original languageEnglish
Article number110535
JournalProgress in Neuro-Psychopharmacology and Biological Psychiatry
Publication statusPublished - 8. Jun 2022

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2022 Elsevier Inc.


  • Affective cognition
  • Alcohol dependence
  • Alcohol use disorder
  • Cognitive bias
  • Cognitive deficits
  • Cognitive enhancers
  • Emotion processing
  • Emotional cognition
  • Implicit cognition
  • Nootropics
  • Pharmacological agents
  • Pharmacotherapy
  • Reward processing
  • Social cognition


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