Bipolar disorder and dementia: where is the link?


Professor Emmanuel Haffen, MD, PhD, Department of Clinical Psychiatry, University Hospital of Besançon, Besançon 25000, France. Email:


Cognitive disorders appearing in the course of bipolar disease have been identified, and recent studies have defined the neuropsychological characteristics of this pathology, which includes attention, executive function, memory and language disorders. However, questions remain concerning the appearance of dementia symptoms over the course of bipolar disorder in certain patients: is it a chance association or is there a connection between bipolar disorders and dementia? If the latter hypothesis is considered, what is the nature of the dementia, which might be considered as a dementia specific to bipolar disorder? Current clinical, neuropsychological and cerebral imaging data are inconclusive, but similarities with frontotemporal dementia might be highlighted. Functional imaging studies might provide answers as well as more specific tests in neuropsychology. The cause of cognitive damage in bipolar disease also raises questions concerning a neurodevelopmental or neurodegenerative process, because several factors seem to influence cognition and these two processes might occur simultaneously. Long-term studies are necessary to determine whether cognitive deterioration in bipolar disease is stable or progressive. There might also be different neurobiological subgroups of patients with bipolar disease.