Department of Gastroenterology, Hepatology and Infectious Diseases, Jagiellonian University Medical College, Cracow, Poland. email@example.com.
Liver cirrhosis is often accompanied by cognitive deficits called minimal hepatic encephalopathy (MHE) when it is observed to a moderate extent. In the present study, brain activity and cognitive functioning were examined in patients with liver cirrhosis without MHE or overt clinical hepatic encephalopathy. A battery of neuropsychological tests and event related potentials (ERPs) were used. Moreover, an additional n-back task was administered with two difficulty levels (1- and 2-back). This task was designed to engage cognitive processes of storage and manipulation of information in working memory. The participants have to decide whether the letter shown was the same as a target (congruence condition). No significant differences were found in the performance of either the neuropsychological tests or the n-back task. However, the expected effects of decreased performance as well as a decrease in P3 amplitude with difficulty level were identified. The interaction of group x congruence condition was also observed in the P2 component time window. These results may indicate group differences manifesting in early stages of information processing in working memory. It confirms that the patients whose neuropsychological performance is within the normal range can still reveal subtle changes in CNS functioning visible in ERP research. The study confirms the usability of the ERP method in diagnosis of neurocognitive functions in patients with liver cirrhosis, which seems to be more sensitive than neuropsychological tests.