Objectives: Impaired verbal declarative memory has been proposed as a trait marker for adult bipolar disorder. However, similar impairments in juvenile-onset bipolar disorder have not been yet documented. Here, we assessed declarative memory in a large sample of clinically well-characterized children with bipolar disorder.
Methods: Forty-one children and adolescents with bipolar disorder [21 bipolar I disorder (BP-I), 10 bipolar II disorder (BP-II), and 10 bipolar disorder, not otherwise specified (BP-NOS)] and 17 demographically matched healthy participants completed a standardized learning and memory test.
Results: BP-I children recalled and recognized significantly fewer words than healthy subjects, whereas children with BP-II and BP-NOS did not differ from controls. However, individuals with BP-NOS made more perseverative errors and intrusions than the other groups. Severity of mood symptomatology was not associated with memory performance in any bipolar subtype.
Conclusions: Findings suggest that declarative memory impairments in juvenile BP-I are similar to those seen in the adult form of the illness. These impairments do not appear to be secondary to clinical state; rather, they may reflect trait-related impairments. Distinct performance patterns in BP-I, BP-II, and BP-NOS suggest that the broadly defined phenotype is significantly heterogeneous, and may not be informative for pathogenetic investigations of bipolar disorder.