Relational memory in psychotic bipolar disorder


Corresponding author:
Stephan Heckers, M.D.
Department of Psychiatry
Vanderbilt Psychiatric Hospital
1601 23rd Avenue South, Room 3060
TN 37212
Fax: 615-343-8400


Sheffield JM, Williams LE, Cohen N, Heckers S. Relational memory in psychotic bipolar disorder.
Bipolar Disord 2012: 14: 537–546. © 2012 The Authors. Journal compilation © 2012 John Wiley & Sons A/S.

Objectives:  Recent research has highlighted the phenotypic and genetic overlap of bipolar disorder and schizophrenia. Cognitive deficits in bipolar disorder parallel those seen in schizophrenia, particularly for bipolar disorder patients with a history of psychotic features. Here we explored whether relational memory deficits, which are prominent in schizophrenia, are also present in patients with psychotic bipolar disorder.

Methods:  We tested 25 patients with psychotic bipolar disorder on a relational memory paradigm previously employed to quantify deficits in schizophrenia. During the training, participants learned to associate a set of faces and background scenes. During the testing, participants viewed a single background overlaid by three trained faces and were asked to recall the matching face, which was either present (Match trials) or absent (Non-Match trials). Explicit recognition and eye-movement data were collected and compared to those for 28 schizophrenia patients and 27 healthy subjects from a previously published dataset.

Results:  Contrary to our prediction, we found psychotic bipolar disorder patients were less impaired in relational memory than schizophrenia subjects. Bipolar disorder subjects showed eye-movement behavior similar to healthy controls, whereas schizophrenia subjects were impaired relative to both groups. However, bipolar disorder patients with current delusions and/or hallucinations were more impaired than bipolar disorder patients not currently experiencing these symptoms.

Conclusions:  We found that patients with psychotic bipolar disorder had better relational memory performance than schizophrenia patients, indicating that a history of psychotic symptoms does not lead to a significant relational memory deficit.