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Neurocognitive impairment in euthymic young adults with bipolar spectrum disorder and recurrent major depressive disorder


  • The authors of this paper do not have any commercial associations that might pose a conflict of interest in connection with this manuscript.

Dr Daniel J Smith, Division of Psychiatry, School of Molecular and Clinical Medicine, Royal Edinburgh Hospital, University of Edinburgh, Morningside Park, Edinburgh EH10 5HF, UK. Fax: +44 141 211 6198; e-mail:


Objective:  Patients with remitted major depressive disorder (MDD) and bipolar disorder have persistent impairments in executive function and verbal memory that may represent endophenotypic abnormalities. In this study, we examine neurocognitive function in a sample of euthymic young adults with bipolar spectrum disorder (BSD) (Can J Psychiatry 2002; 47: 125–134) and compare this to well-matched samples of young adults with recurrent MDD and controls.

Method:  Twenty-one euthymic young adult patients with BSD were compared with 42 young adult patients with MDD and 33 controls on a neuropsychological battery assessing attention, executive function and verbal memory.

Results:  Patients with BSD were significantly more impaired than MDD patients and controls on tests of executive function and verbal memory. MDD patients did not differ significantly from controls on verbal memory function but performed less well on a test of executive function.

Conclusion:  Euthymic young adults with BSD had greater impairment on neurocognitive measures associated with prefrontal and hippocampal function than MDD patients and controls. This is a reflection of a strong bipolar diathesis in the BSD group rather than being a consequence of a more severe unipolar illness.