Neuropsychological performance of patients with soft bipolar spectrum disorders
- Kangguang Lin and Tatia M.C. Lee contributed equally to this work.
There is much evidence that shows that a substantial number of individuals with DSM-IV-defined unipolar depression (UP) manifest hypomanic sub-syndrome and bipolar diathesis. Other definitions have conceptualized the term soft bipolar spectrum (SBP) for these individuals. Little is known about the cognitive profiles of individuals with SBP. We hypothesized that they are representative of individuals with bipolar II disorder and are different from that of ‘strict’ UP.
Consecutive referrals suffering major depressive episodes were categorically assigned to groups of either bipolar I disorder (n = 98), bipolar II disorder (n = 138), or UP (n = 300). Based on the SBP criteria by Akiskal and Pinto (17), patients with UP were subdivided into 81 SBP and 219 strict UP. We administered self- and clinician-administered scales to evaluate affective temperaments, and neuropsychological tests to assess seven cognitive domains.
Patients with SBP performed significantly better than strict UP patients in the domains of processing speed (p = 0.002), visual-spatial memory (p = 0.017), and verbal working memory (p = 0.017). Compared to patients with bipolar I disorder, patients with SBP were significantly better in set shifting (p < 0.001) and visual-spatial memory (p = 0.042). Patients with SBP performed similarly to patients with bipolar II disorder in all of the cognitive domains tested (p > 0.05). There was a group × cognitive domain interaction effect between bipolar I disorder, bipolar II disorder, SBP, and strict UP groups [Pillai's F = 2.231, df = (18,1437), p = 0.002].
Our data suggest that patients with SBP differ from patients with UP not only in external validators (e.g., family history of bipolar disorder) and hypomanic symptoms, but also in neuropsychological performance and that the profiles of cognitive functioning were different across bipolar I disorder and ‘bipolar II spectrum’ that subsumes bipolar II disorder and SBP.