Negative emotion impacts memory for verbal discourse in pediatric bipolar disorder


  • The authors of this paper report no relevant commercial associations that might pose a conflict of interest in connection with this manuscript. MNP receives research support from NIMH and NICHD; and is on a speakers bureau for Janssen, AstraZeneca, and Bristol-Myers Squibbs. DML receives research support from NIA, NIMH, NINDS, CDMRP, TATRC, and the Department of the Army.

Corresponding author:
Mani N. Pavuluri, M.D., Ph.D.
Pediatric Mood Disorders Program
Department of Psychiatry
Institute for Juvenile Research
1747 West Roosevelt Road (M/C 747)
Chicago, IL 60612, USA
Fax: 312-413-0063


Jacobs RH, Pavuluri MN, Schenkel LS, Palmer A, Shah K, Vemuri D, Whited S, Little DM. Negative emotion impacts memory for verbal discourse in pediatric bipolar disorder.
Bipolar Disord 2011: 13: 287–293. © 2011 The Authors.
Journal compilation © 2011 John Wiley & Sons A/S.

Objectives:  Cognitive and emotional deficits have been documented in youth with pediatric bipolar disorder (PBD); however, to date, a systematic evaluation of comprehension and memory for verbally presented information has not been conducted. The effect of emotion on comprehension and memory for verbally presented material also has not been examined. We examined whether youth with PBD have difficulty recalling the big picture (macrostructure) as well as the story details (microstructure).

Methods:  A total of 35 youth with PBD and 25 healthy controls completed an Affective Story Task. A psychological processing model allowed for the examination of both the macrostructure and microstructure of language comprehension.

Results:  Youth with PBD were capable of comprehending the gist of the stories and were not impaired by emotion when comprehending and remembering macrostructure. However, negative emotional material was found to proactively interfere with the encoding and recall of microstructure. Level of depression appeared to impact recall of microstructure, but not macrostructure.

Conclusions:  Negatively valenced material may impair subsequent comprehension and memory for details among youth with PBD. This deficit could impact the daily functioning of these youth, as the perception of negative affect may derail aspects of successful comprehension and learning.